Following the Tread of Pioneers – Emily Eldridge

The decision to come here was not an easy one.

In Texas I had two jobs that covered my expenses, a comfortable home with loving parents, and good friends. Packing up only what I could fit in two suitcases and a backpack to leave all that behind and move to another state entirely was, frankly, terrifying. My mom drove me to the airport at 6 in the morning and I flew to Denver, dragged my 100 pounds of luggage through the airport, and took a four and a half hour shuttle drive to an address I had never seen, in a town I had never been to, to meet the almost stranger I had agreed to live with for the next year.

Several times in the weeks leading up to that journey I wondered if I was making a huge mistake. But I took comfort in knowing that I could visit home, and my parents could visit me, and we were only ever a call or a click away.

Full confession: I knew very little about either Colorado or Steamboat Springs when I made the decision to come. I saw the opportunity to work in a new museum without having to worry about affording a place to live, and to explore my faith and a new place at the same time. However, working at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, I quickly started learning about my new home. As a Texan, I found Western themes of ranching and pioneering comforting and familiar. But reading about the first families who decided to make their homes here, and the struggles they faced, made me begin seeing my own journey to get here differently.

Altogether, my trip from Texas to Steamboat Springs took less than twelve hours. I arrived to a furnished home and a kind housemate who helped me with my bags and took no offense to me immediately taking a nap (in an already made bed!). In contrast, the first permanent settlers in Steamboat Springs, the Crawford family, arrived by covered wagon. The time between leaving their original home and setting up in Steamboat was three years. No house awaited them, only the Ute Native American tribe, who left the area in the winters. All they had to start a new life was what they were able to bring and what they could hunt or grow or find in the area. While I’m sure they left behind people who would have been willing to send them that warmer jacket that simply wouldn’t fit (thanks again mom!), no post office yet existed. Someone else would have had to make their own difficult and dangerous journey to bring a piece of mail to the brand new settlement.

These people were incredibly brave. The unknown they faced was a hundred times more daunting than what awaited me when I journeyed here. They arrived with very little and immediately began to create a home and a community. Without their choice and their commitment, I wouldn’t have the amazing opportunities that await me this year. As I settle into my new home and work to find my place in the communities of Steamboat Springs and Colorado ESC, I reflect on and am inspired by the courage of those who came before.

I really love the lines that inspired the name of the museum where I now work, from a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier: “I hear the tread of pioneers, of nations yet to be, the first low wash of waves, where soon shall roll a human sea.”

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