Hayden Some area teen-agers last week learned to appreciate modern-day comforts and conveniences after getting a firsthand taste of pioneer life.
More than 20 high school students and teachers from Hayden High School followed the Oregon Trail by foot, horse and covered wagon.
"We found out how hard it actually was for them (the pioneers)," freshman Chantal Gregory said.
The two-day excursion took the group to south-central Wyoming, where they set up camp and made out-and-back trips of two to six hours.
The group initially planned to set up camp in two different locations, but inclement weather hindered their efforts to move a second time.
Rain, snow and wind made for an arduous journey.
"It was really, really windy," senior Glen Frentress said.
The team of horses that pulled the covered wagon often struggled on hills muddied by constant precipitation.
Nick Schafer, Hayden High School principal, accompanied the students on horseback.
The trail had recently begun to dry out before the snow fell, he said.
Teachers and students walked most of the way. When mud didn't slow the wagon down, a team of horses set the pace for teachers and students who walked alongside the wagon.
An outfitter guided the group and provided housing arrangements and water.
The students carried their bedding and food with them, slept in tepees and cooked their meals over a campfire.
The guide led his young charges through the steps of putting together a tepee.
Strong winds complicated efforts to construct the temporary shelters, but such small obstacles throughout the trip taught the students a little about teamwork, science teacher Mari Mahanna said.
"You see a different side of their personality," she said. "Some kids are not very good team players and some step up to the plate."
Mealtimes gave teen-agers some fresh insight into their culinary skills.
"A lot of us went hungry," freshman Evan Hilling said.
Groups of six students formed "families" and shared the responsibility of preparing food over an open fire.
Gregory said she and her family learned the frustration of trying to keep their fire lit in the strong winds.
They attempted to make soup the first night, she said, but the verdict on the finished product was mixed.
"They learned about cooking for themselves," Schafer said. "Some of them haven't done much of that."
The high school first extended the Oregon Trail opportunity to freshman math students and then opened the offer to all students.
A few upperclassmen, some of whom participated in the excursion last spring, accepted the offer.
The students began raising money for the trip last fall.
Their final fund-raiser required them to walk 100 miles around the high school track for pledges.
Walking for miles alongside the wagon gave the students a new respect for those who traveled the same way many years before.
"It made us realize just how much they went through," Gregory said.
Frentress, like many other students, soon learned how monotonous the walk must have been for pioneers who saw the same surroundings for months.
"It got a little boring," he said.
Teachers incorporated some classroom instruction into the trip.
The students mapped some of their journey with GPS equipment.
The excursion took the group through a section of country overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.
The travelers came across no human contact.
"We didn't see a soul," Schafer said.
The high school might consider moving the annual trip to the fall when weather poses less of a problem, he said.
But despite the minor setbacks, the students walked away from the trip with an education, Schafer said.
"They had their eyes opened in several ways," he said.