Wagon train covers 60 miles of Weiser River Trail

Steve Lyon

Riders on horseback and four wagons arrived in Midvale Saturday afternoon after completing day two of a 60-mile trek on the Weiser River Trail that started in Weiser on Friday and ended on Monday in Council.
 Along the way, the 25 participants in the 18th annual Weiser River Trail Wagon Train endured daily rain showers and enjoyed the changing scenery along the former railroad route.
 Saturday’s leg of the journey started at 8:15 a.m. at a primitive camp 13 miles north of Weiser. Under overcast skies and temperatures in the 60s, the riders saddled up and the wagons hit the trail for Midvale through the Weiser River canyon.
 After arriving in Midvale, the horses were fed and watered and camp was set up in the city park. The riders, who came from Idaho, Oregon and Washington, were served a hearty  dinner to go with a hearty Memorial Day weekend adventure.
 The camping equipment for the riders and feed for the horses were shuttled ahead of the wagon train by the trail boss to the planned stops on the trip in Midvale, Goodrich and Council.
 In addition to the wagons and horse riders, two bicyclists joined the ride, including a woman in her 80s.
 Redmond, Ore., resident Beth Wendell rode her horse as part of the wagon train. Her sister Lynn Welborn came down from Grangeville with her horse to ride the trail and share some sibling time.
 “That’s how we hang out together. We meet and ride,” Wendell said.
 The trail was a little muddy in places on Saturday, but the rain and cooler temperatures were better than hot weather and dust, she said.
 The unsettled Memorial Day weekend weather brought another downpour on the campers on Saturday night. Sunday’s trail ride took the wagons and riders from Midvale to Goodrich, a slow climb in elevation over 12 miles.
 Trail ride participants said they like the route because there are no major hills or mountains to climb. The trail follows the old railroad right-of-way that was donated to the Friends of the Weiser River Trail more than 20 years ago.
 The elevation of the trail does not climb or fall more than 3 percent the entire length of the ride. Only non-motorized uses of the trail are allowed on its total 84-mile length from Weiser to near New Meadows.
 The number of participants this year was up over recent years. Organizers hope that bodes well for future wagon train trips. The event did not happen last year.
 Terry Wolford brought his small buckboard wagon and a single horse to ride on the Weiser River Trail. The wagon was made by “an old wagon guy” who retired and sold Wolford the rig.
 The only concession to modern convenience and comfort on the wagon were the tires. They were off of an old model T automobile.
 Wolford, who calls Caldwell home, has done the Memorial Day wagon train for four years. His friend, Mike Beavers from Wilder, had a similar-looking buckboard wagon, and he has done the trail trek for eight years.
 Wolford said his stout draft horse enjoyed the trip as much as he did, except for the rain on Friday night, which found its way through the tarp he put on the back of his wagon where he was sleeping.
 Just like a working cow or sheep dog, his horse likes to have a job to do pulling the small wagon and Wolford up the trail.
 Lynn Stoneman comes up from Louisiana every year to go on the wagon ride and has for a decade.
 It’s kind of a bittersweet trip for Stoneman. His dad Joe was one of the founders of the wagon train 18 years ago, along with Dan Dickerson and Terry Bonner, but has since passed away.
 The homemade wagon he rode in served as the chuckwagon on the trail. He joined the wagon train in Midvale on Saturday and planned to finish the rest of the journey to Council. His brother Alan was also participating in the ride.
 The two horses pulling the wagon were veterans of the wagon train and the Weiser River Trail. Poco and Snipp reside on the Oregon Slope, where Stoneman’s family farms and his stepmother Tootsie lives. The wagon was trucked in on the back of a trailer.
 Stoneman was actually born in Weiser and moved to Louisiana in 1998. He owns a bar and leather shop in Marksville, La., not far from the bayou country of the deep south. His brother lives in Meridian, and both want to keep the wagon train going far into the future.
 “I have to come up here and get my mountain fix,” Stoneman said.
 Seven wagons went on the first trail ride back in 2001. The record for participants in the event, either on wagons or horses, still stands at 54.
 Over the years, the riders have come from as far as New Jersey and many western states, such as Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Arizona.
 Stoneman wears period clothing that lends some 19th century frontier authenticity to the wagon train as it moseys up the trail. Back home he also does Civil War renactments, usually portraying a soldier on the Union side.
 The stop in Goodrich on the Weiser River Trail on day three of the trek is his favorite spot. It also was his dad’s favorite location to camp for a night.  
 On previous trips he has seen deer, elk, bear and 60 miles of beautiful scenery. There’s plenty to take in riding in the wagon with reins in hand at a pace of 3-4 miles per hour.
 “You see things that everybody else misses. Nobody takes the time to check out the view anymore,” he said.


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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