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Wagon Train and Riders Ride Across Washington State

May 6, 2008     E-mail this page to a friend!

On the Trail. Riders stop at an old Milwaukee Rail Road trestle.
During race season, it can be tough to get away from the track for even a day. But if you can spare some time, this horse-and-wagon adventure sounds like a fun "blast from the past!" Nancy encourages anyone who is interested in the ride to call her for details, saying, "The first year that I went I had a million questions." Her contact information appears at the end of the article—

Every year a large group of riders and wagons take off across the eastern part of the State of Washington. The group is composed of members of the John Wayne Wagons and Riders. We ride what used to be the path of the Milwaukee Rail Road. The State of Washington has re-done the railroad grade to be safe for horses, wagons, bikes, walkers and the public in general. Gravel has replaced the rails and sides have been put on all the bridges and trestles that we cross. The grade has been renamed the John Wayne Trail. The ride is between 200 and 225 miles in length and it takes from May 22 to June 8th to complete. We start in Easton Washington and finish in Tekoa near the Idaho and Washington border.

Easton, Washington is on the east side of the Cascades off of Interstate 90. On May 22nd we will meet here with our trucks, trailers, motor homes, campers, tents and camping gear and our horses or mules and wagons. We bring our own food and whatever we will need for ourselves and our animals. The club provides us with portable toilets and a shuttle bus.

Every year we get lots and lots of new members that just come and join up with us at the beginning or along the trail. Some come from as far away as New York. We have people that do not have horses and walk the trail, ride a bike or hitch a ride on a wagon.

I found out about the ride from my horse shoer. He told me about the John Wayne Trail and the cross the State Ride Wagon Train. I decided to go and went by myself and did not know anyone. That all changed once I got on the ride I soon made lots of friends.

Here is how the ride goes. We get up early in the morning and feed and water our animals. Then we get ourselves ready for the day’s ride. We saddle and tie our animals up to a tree or we have someone stay behind and hold them while we shuttle our rigs behind the bus to the next campsite. When we get there we find a place to park and hop on the bus and return to our horses. Then we ride off and the toilets meet us about half way along the trail and they carry water so we bring our portable water buckets with us too.

We cross over rivers on bridges, go through tunnels, irrigated farmland, cut through basalt tunnels and see rock formations that few get a chance to see. We start off seeing lots of evergreens and soon we get into the sagebrush, wetlands, over a dam on the Columbia River, past huge grain elevators, into towns that used to house thousands and now only a few since the passing of the rail line. We travel some back roads, see beautiful forests, through areas that are covered with wild flowers and lots of surprised wild life along the way. We pass over pretty creeks, along the sides of beautiful lakes and even a town that used to be filled with people and now completely empty where the flowers still grow along the porches and old walk ways like they are waiting for the people to come back. We pass over and through canyons and even participate in a parade or two along the way. One town has a rodeo the weekend we are there. We also have “rest” days where we can go get groceries, get things fixed, replenish our hay and grain or just rest and visit.

There are towns all along the way that you can go into and pick up whatever you might need. We will show you places to dump your RV tanks and to buy propane and hay. We have lots of potlucks along the way. One town goes all out for us and cooks us dinner and a breakfast. We are occasionally entertained by local musicians. New this year is a dance in the park at Malden. There are BBQ’s put on by some of the towns we travel through and there are fun things to do almost every day. If you decide not to ride one day ride there are always plenty of things to do in camp. The ride starts May 22 and ends June 8th so the weather is not too hot. But that necessitates going before the children get out of school. I am taking my 14 year old granddaughter. All of the children that go take home work to do along the way. Some children have “grown-up” on the trail. I have taken a grandson and both of my daughters and their families have come to join up. One of my daughters and her husband bring their RV and just camp out with all of us for a few days.

The cost of the ride is $95.00 A smaller fee is charged for those who choose only to participate in a portion of the ride. Children ages 11-17 pay $45.00 and children under 10 are free. Membership in the club is required and is $25.00 per year per family. Your membership includes a monthly newsletter that tells you all about this ride and others that we have during the year.

For more information contact Nancy Nolf or call 425-788-1848 and come and have fun with us.