Where The Trail Ends by Melanie Dobson

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A young woman traveling the Oregon Trail in 1842 must rely on a stranger to bring her to safety. But whom can she trust with her heart?

For two thousand miles along the trail to Oregon Country, Samantha Waldron and her brother must overcome tremendous challenges to reach the Willamette Valley before winter. But when their canoe capsizes on the Columbia River, they must rely on handsome British exporter Alexander Clarke to rescue them from the icy water. Samantha is overwhelmed with men vying for her affections at Fort Vancouver, but the only one who intrigues her—Alex—is the one she cannot have.

Samantha clutched Micah’s hand, water splashing up both sides of the wagon as their two oxen labored to pull them and the Waldron family belongings across the swift Snake River. The wagon bumped over another rock and listed to the left.

She swallowed hard. What would happen if her family’s wagon tipped, as the Baylor family’s wagon did two weeks past? She’d promised Mama that she would take care of her little brother, but it hadn’t been easy. Micah could swim—Papa had taken him down to the pond several times before they left Ohio—but this current would be too hard for him to fight, the river too wide for him to cross. Micah squeezed her hand, and his words trembled along with his fingers. “Are we gonna tip?”

She steadied her voice. “Papa will take care of us.” Micah’s hand relaxed in hers.

Their father rode beside them on the one horse they’d purchased for their journey west, yelling at the oxen as he cracked his whip over their heads. During their five months on the trail, Papa had changed from an ordinary small-town lawyer to a passionate horseman and teamster.

They’d all changed, she supposed.

The wagon groaned from the pressure of the current, but she tried to stay calm for Micah’s sake. She wished she could jump off the wagon bench into the river, to help Papa lead their supplies and live- stock to safety.

But even if the river were shallow enough for her to walk safely through it, Papa would be angry if she got off the bench, and Captain Ezra Loewe, their hard-nosed wagon master, would be furious.

The captain was still fuming over her last attempt to help. How could she possibly have known that there was an entire family of rattlers lurking in that bush? When she screamed...well, at least their animals hadn’t run very far. And they had eaten the snakes for supper. But instead of making herself a needed member of the Loewe party as she’d hoped, the captain had refused her further offers of assistance.

About a hundred yards ahead of them, Captain Loewe, the handsome Jack Doyle, and most of the other sixteen men in their company worked on the grassy bank, leading teams of oxen and wagons out of the water and up to safe ground. Behind the men lay a small valley with endless brown hills that blended into the horizon. More steep climbs, deep ruts, and rugged volcanic rock for their wagon party to cross with lofty mountains towering around the fringe.

A small part of her wished this current could take her and Micah back east, toward Ohio and all they’d left behind them. She missed Grandma Emma and her cousins, her bed, and the fashionable dresses in her armoire. She missed eating just about anything other than beans, biscuits, and dried buffalo meat. But this journey—it was all a grand adventure, and there was nothing she loved more than an adventure.

A bit about Melanie Dobson:
Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of eleven novels, but Where the Trail Ends is her first novel set in her home state of Oregon. Melanie and her daughters went on a 2000-mile journey along the Oregon Trail over spring break to research for this book. She enjoyed the spectacular scenery and inspiration along the way. Her daughters enjoyed way too many Happy Meals and swimming at the Lava Hot Springs in Idaho. Find out more about Melanie and her books at www.melaniedobson.com.

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