You know that game, The Oregon Trail? You would choose an occupation (I was usually a carpenter, so I could fix broken axles, wheels, etc), assign your skill points for foraging or keeping morale high, choose a city to start from(I always started from Independence or Jefferson City) and a city as your end destination(Honestly, I mostly shot for Salt Lake City, as it was the closest, and involved less desert), choose when to leave (I would leave in the middle of February, because spring would be coming soon, but if you made good time, you'd be able to cross the rivers when they were frozen and miss the spring floods), and then wander around town, buying food, guns and ammo for hunting, livestock, and assorted goods, being careful not to exceed the weight limit of whatever wagon you bought. (I always bought the biggest - I needed to be able to cart along those extra 100 pounds of celery, cheap and nutritious.) And then, finally, you would start off down the trail.
This book was the rest of the game.
You would travel and travel, finding wild fruits and veggies, riding out on hunting expeditions (a bison stampede, oh boy!)
fight outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, general illnesses,
and the death of members of the wagon train.
Somebody would get grumbly and you'd rest for a few days to bring up morale. Maybe you'd run out of water and frantically search for an trading post that might still have a barrel. If you were enterprising, you could trade with other wagon teams or Indians you met along the way. Sometimes the hills were so steep, you'd have to use chains on the wheels, or risk a tipped/broken wagon(Lee's wagon train should have considered chains...) And then of course, inevitably, no matter what you did, a wheel, axel, or yoke would break.
And while this book didn't have every minute element of the Oregon Trail and it certainly had some additions to the expedition, it was basically the same. (No surprise there.) Except I'd have been rather playing the game. Which is not to say that this was bad, but it was slow and it's basically just a long lead-up to the following books of this series. Very little happens that you couldn't start with Book Two and jump right into the story. Lee's gold finding abilities are utilized very little, and nothing much comes of it, except for it being the driving reason why she leaves town for California. And honestly, I see why she's going to California, because people are gonna be less suspicious of her tripping over gold every time they turn around, but it will also incite a lot of jealousy on their part, even if they don't discover her secret. So California also seems the absolute worst place someone of her abilities could go. Someone finds out about your ability, and you're up a creek without a paddle. In fact, she's already discovered that people are willing to murder to get to her and her abilities, and the murderer is following her to California. Like, come on, girl, GO TO TEXAS OR SOMETHING.
But actually, now that I'm considering this, this book is a cross between The Oregon Trail and the Yukon Trail, which was boring as heck as you traveled up to the Yukon and really only got exciting when you could stake a claim and start panning and mining for gold.
That being said, I will be checking the second book out, because maybe something exciting will happen now that Lee's in California? One can hope.