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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Women retracing Santa Fe Trail

Monday, June 28, 2004

Carolyn Robinson, Inez Ross, Phyllis Morgan and Judy Janay walked along the Santa Fe Trail through Saline County last week, learning more about the trail and history of this region of Missouri. The women, as well as several others who have joined and disbanded from the group during the past eight years, plan to complete the last leg of their journey by the fall of next year.
When Judy Janay's elementary-age granddaughter told her teacher her grandmother was hiking the entire Santa Fe Trail with some friends, the teacher thought she must be mistaken. Maybe her grandmother had just told her about the trail or they had read a story about someone walking the length of it. But no -- the little girl was telling the truth.

Janay is part of a group of women walking along the path of migration and commerce to the Southwest, discovering more about history and themselves as they go. In 1996, Inez Ross and Janay's sister, Jennifer Reglien, decided it would be momentous to hike the trail in stages, a few miles at a time.

More than eight years and several journeywomen later, "Trail Boss" Ross of Los Alamos, N.M., Janay of Fort Collins, Colo., Carolyn Robinson of Los Alamos and Phyllis Morgan of Albuquerque, N.M., are embarking on the last few sections of the project. By Wednesday, Ross estimated they were on their 93rd hike and had covered 831 miles altogether.

They walked the trail near Malta Bend Tuesday, stayed at the Comfort Inn in Marshall and hiked around more of Saline County Wednesday. Their schedule for Thursday took them around Arrow Rock, but the portion of their trip involving Saline County that excited them most was a pontoon boat ride across the Missouri River near Arrow Rock.

Some of the trail has been paved or lies under corn fields, but the women get as close as they can to the historical pathway. While much of their trip has been planned, the women have also witnessed and learned things spontaneously.

"People all along the trail know the history and are very proud of it," Janay said. "Like if they had family who were connected to the trail at all, often they'd invite us, like 'Oh, you have to talk to so and so.'"

When the women first started, Ross said they weren't completely serious about what they were doing. But that quickly changed.

"Then we were planning six months ahead all the time," she said, commenting on how difficult it is to get all the hikers together.

Once they got serious, they started walking 10 miles each hiking day, plotting their course and walking about five miles at once, taking a break and continuing. At first, they tried to hike as far as they could but their aches and pains soon led them to another plan. At their peak, they try to walk six days in a row, 10 miles a day, but since weather changes so rapidly at times, they learned to have a car waiting for them at the end of each stretch.

Over the course of the journey, the women have experienced different reactions from people they encountered, but they hope theyhave also educated others about the trail and the life of those who used it.

"At first it's total disbelief from people and then we talk some more and they believe it," Morgan said. "It brings them kind of a shock in the beginning and then a growing awareness of what you're accomplishing."

Scheduling the remainder of the journey, the group is anticipating hiking a celebratory last leg and final mile next fall on Labor Day since 2005 marks 125 years since the trail was no longer needed as a wagon route with the arrival of the railroad in the West.

Contact Naomi Campbell at


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