The Ingalls face a number of hardships on their journey including a number of hardships caused by nature.
Right at the beginning of their journey they have to cross a frozen lake, they think nothing of it on the journey across it. Yet during the night Laura hears strange noises, which is the sound of the Lake cracking (“It sounded like a shot, but it was sharper and longer than a shot.”). Which prompts Laura to consider what would have happened if the ice had cracked whilst they were travelling on it. “She thought what would have happened if the ice had cracked under the wagon wheels and they had all gone down into the cold water in the middle of that vast lake.” This is an example of the constant threat of danger they face from nature even when that threat is not obvious at the time.
Similarly, in chapter two they are crossing a creek when the water suddenly rises and causes the wagon to float and the horses to have to swim. Charles has to jump into the water to guide the horses to the bank of the creek safely. This event is an example of the very real danger they face on their journey. After this ordeal the family realises that their dog did not make it across with them, and is most likely dead. This shows how nature can very easily harm travellers without warning, and also due to this event they are with out a guard dog and so the family will be more vulnerable to wolves attacking.
In chapter seven Charles encounters a large wolf pack that follows him on his journey back from the bachelors (“They were all around Pa in a moment“). He has to force his horse to move slowly to avoid causing the wolves to chase him, and as soon as the wolves leave him he rushes home. At this point we see the up close the danger wolves are to the family. Up until this point it has been a distant threat, such as in chapter one where, “Pa slept outside in the wagon, to guard it and the horses”. This close encounter with the wolves shows the danger they face as settlers is very real.
One less obvious hardship they face due to nature is the threat of malaria, and in chapter fifteen they are bitten by mosquitoes and contract malaria, or “Fever ’n’ Ague” as it is know to them.
Some other more minor examples of the hardships they face which are caused by nature are events such as the prairie fire which would have burned down their home, if they had not been able to control the fire. However the prairie fire that could of potentially burned down their home is thought to have been started by the Indians to force out the settlers form their new homes. There is also the instance in chapter eighteen where the girls think that Mr Edwards and Santa will not be able to visit them on Christmas day due to the bad weather, yet Mr Edwards swims across the river to bring them presents from Santa.