October 7, 2012

Pioneer Bridal Trail exhibits strength, tenacity and toughness of those who journeyed west

A portion of the Barlow Trail
After having travelled along and ignoring various sections of the Barlow Trail virtually all my life, I decided recently to finally be a little more proactive in the pursuit of Oregon’s earliest history. After researching the trail, I drove up Highway 26 toward Mt. Hood. There, I discovered firsthand the tenacious determination the folks traveling over the trail possessed. The desire to leave everything behind in pursuit of a new life is one thing. The hardship they must have suffered while traveling along the trail is entirely another. This is what you realize when you experience the trail for yourself – seeing the unyielding longing these people had to go west and start a new life.

Tollgate and two maple trees

My first stop was at the small parking area located just beyond Tollgate Campground, where a replica of the former tollgate exists. Maple trees, planted by one of the toll keepers, flank the gate.
Rugged portion of the Barlow Trail
Further east is the Pioneer Bridal Trail, a hiking path along both the Barlow Trail and general area of the Trail, giving hikers an indication of what it took to not only travel the road, but also build it. I could only imagine the effort sustained to establish the trail through the rugged forestland along the length of Laurel Hill.
What's left of the old mine shaft
The Pioneer Bridal Trail switchbacks up the slopes of Laurel Hill, passes the entrance of a mine shaft and eventually widens as it traces the Barlow Trail. This is where one can only imagine what it took to build the wagon road. Apparently, where trees were impassible, they were removed by fire. In other instances, the trail wound around and between the largest of trees. Surely, the big question the road builders had was how they would get down from Laurel Hill to the valley below (the valley lies below Highway 26 during the final push toward the pass at Government Camp). Even after the trail was established, tree roots and large rocks on the trail must have made it a jarring ride when the pioneers weren’t walking.
Barlow Trail winds through tall tree stands
A fence surrounds the trailside mine shaft; the crumbling sides of the shaft have filled in much of the hole over the years. Further along the trail is a tunnel that travels below the old Mt. Hood Highway that was built in the 1920s. After checking out the old Highway, I turned around a headed back to the trailhead.

Tunnel below old Mt. Hood Highway and the old Highway