Friday, July 31, 2009

Handcart Trek 2009 - Part 2

In modern times, there is a bridge over the Sweetwater River close to Martin's Cove. In 1856, it was a freezing, ice filled river, with the only bridge being the arms of brave young men. To remember this event, we walked to the edge of the river and Josh and Joseph carried our whole "company" across the water. To say I shed a tear or two watching my boys do this is an understatement.

They started with Peter,and then Libby,and then on down through the company. Here's Joseph picking up Adam,and Josh carrying Jennifer. This picture is priceless. In two years, when he's turning nineteen, I won't be able to look at it at all. :)
Joseph carrying Mary,and Josh carrying Jesse.Joseph carried me across (without even grunting - ha ha),and Josh carried Bruce.Here are the "rescued", waiting for the others. Why Libby is sitting off to the side, I don't know!Three more to go.The missionaries here asked us to do the River Crossing in silence, to maintain a reverent atmosphere. It was a very tender and unforgettable experience.

Speaking of the missionaries - what a difference they made! They were sprinkled out all through the trek, and every time we saw them they told stories, bore testimony, brought the Spirit in, and made connections to our modern day lives. They were wonderful!

After the River Crossing, we stopped at Handcart Parking, as it's called, and had lunch. They had a whole bunch of picnic tables under a pavilion. I looked at the side of one table and saw a plaque indicating that this was an Eagle Scout Project. I think many of the improvements and conveniences all along the trail are Eagle Scout Projects. I know Jesse B. was in a troop where a Scout had started a project and then passed away. Their troop went ahead and finished the project without him, of putting up a flag pole at the Visitor's Center.

The next step was to walk around Martin's Cove.
In our meeting in Dan Jones Cove with Elder Llewellyn, he explained that when Pres. Hinckley dedicated Martin's Cove, he dedicated it as an open-air temple in Wyoming. He said that Martin's Cove and Rock Creek Hollow are two of the most hallowed and sacred places on the earth, because of what transpired there.When I heard this, I was so happy, because I knew that Mary would be able to keep up her streak! Mary has now been to the temple 6 weeks in a row. Five times doing baptisms for the dead in Idaho, and now a 6th time in a very sacred place in Wyoming.

Peter found a rabbit along the trail. (Click on the picture to get a close-up!)
It was so satisfying and wonderful to be there together as a family.
Elder and Sister Sorenson were at the "top" of Martin's Cove, and talked to us there. Sis. Sorenson said something that touched me deeply. She said that Pres. Faust, when asked why the wind and the elements were not tempered by the Lord for the Saints in Martin's Cove, answered that he did not know why, but that those who were involved came out of it with a deep faith, as did those who were involved in their rescue. That was the First Rescue, and in the recent past, those that were involved in the Second Rescue were deeply touched. Sister Sorenson continued, with a break in her voice, that now a Third Rescue was going on, with all the people that were visiting Martin's Cove and going on the Trek, and being touched by the Spirit because of their experiences there. That resonated deeply with me, as my children can testify because I've already told a dozen people about it! Ha ha

I shared the story with her about one of our ancestors, John Clark, who served a mission in Palestine, against the will of his father, who had already lost one son on a mission when he contracted a disease and died while helping the immigrants on Ellis Island on his way home. John and his companion also lost their lives when they contracted smallpox from German immigrants that they were teaching. Ezra Thompson Clark, his father, traveled all the way to Palestine to retrieve their bodies and bring them home. He was not allowed to do so because of the smallpox, so he buried them in Haifa, with a gravestone engraved with their names.

More than a hundred years later, when BYU was attempting to build the Jerusalem Center, an obscure law was brought forth in an attempt to thwart the building, stating that any church that wanted to build a new structure in Jerusalem had to demonstrate a presence in Jerusalem more than 50 years prior to that time. BYU authorities were able to show the graves of John Clark and his companion, with their gravestone, as proof of the Church's presence. John, although unwittingly, just as the Willie and Martin Handcart pioneers, did their part to build up the Kingdom! And they did so with faith and resolve. I am very grateful for their sacrifice!

It truly was wonderful to be in Martin's Cove. I wanted more time there, to sit and meditate, but that wasn't really possible with all the family, so I gathered our family around in a circle and told them I was so glad to be with them there and wanted to be with them forever. Bruce said, "And I kinda like you too." Ha ha We put our hands together in the middle, and did a "Sure love ya" like my family does. :)

After Martin's Cove, we trekked back to the Visitor's Center, which was about 1.3 miles.
Jesse and Britani start teaching their kids early! :)From here we dropped of the handcarts, loaded up the cars, and drove about an hour to Sixth Crossing, which is where the Willie Company crossed the Sweetwater. There is a Visitor's Center here and a nice campground. While Bruce was in talking to the missionaries, it was raining, and Mary took a million pictures of the beautiful double rainbow,while I sat in the car and read "Remember", a book published by the Riverton Wyoming stake about the Handcart companies and the Second Rescue (highly recommended).After we got camp set up, the missionaries called for Square Dancing. We went over and did the Virginia Reel a few times. The other group took too long, so Bruce started calling our own dance, and we moved right along. It was the most fun to watch Brenlee and Libby twirl around and do the reel!Right after the Square Dancing, a wind and rain storm whipped in that made us all hop around. The tinfoil dinners were ready, so we dished out the food to everyone the best we could in the rain and wind. I said, "This is pretty extreme!" I told our friends, "Only certain families I know could handle this, and you guys are some of them!"

Our tents thankfully were all together under a small pavilion, but they were literally inches from each other. Since it was storming so much, as soon as food was eaten, everyone hurried into the tents. The cacophony of sound that ensued was amazing!! I started to laugh so hard. Then Bruce started to crow like a rooster, and of course others followed with mooing, barking, etc. I had to give Peter Peace & Calming essential oil before he would calm down and stop hopping around the tent.

And that was the end of Day 2! To be continued...

Handcart Trek 2009 - Part 1

Prelude: For a great article on the events that took place at this site in 1856, as well as the historic happenings in 1992, there is an excellent article here.

After years of planning (Bruce started in 2006) and delays, we finally made it as a family to the high plains of Wyoming (6200 ft) for our Handcart Trek!
After visiting my Mom and Dad and sister on Sunday, we arrived at the Martin's Cove Visitor Center around 2:30 pm. Our friends, Jesse and Britani and their four children, and Greg and Rachelle and their four children, were already there waiting for us.
We had ten children with us that were 9 and under, and ten people that were 12 and older, so it was a one to one ratio! Camille, pictured here, was the youngest.
We took three handcarts - two for gear, and then one for pulling children. Most of the food and tents and sleeping bags had to be taken by car to the campsite. We felt a little chagrined about that, but then we learned along the way that the pioneers didn't take their own food, as there were provision wagons that went along with the companies.

Cordell, Adam and Peter pulled the handcart most of the way this first night.Brenlee, another of our little pioneers was so fun to have along. She smiled and made everyone happy.
So off we went!

This is Jennifer. I love this picture!
Britani and Rachelle are pulling here, but later on they both got in the cart and Jesse B. (as to differentiate from my daughter Jesse) insisted that all the kids pull them in the cart on the last stretch into our campsite.
We hiked three miles that afternoon and set up camp at Cherry Creek Campground.
I love this picture of Bruce. He was absolutely made for something like this Trek. He loves the outdoors, the work, the spiritual purpose and meaning laced into everything at the camp. This picture seems to capture all that to me.That night, a missionary couple came into camp. Elder Fenn was dressed as Ephraim K. Hanks, who is my great-great grandfather, and Sister Fenn was dressed as a pioneer woman depicting Thisbe Reed Hanks, Ephraims' wife. Another family came along with them just to see this presentation, so we made room around our campfire. It was announced that missionary dressed up in a buckskin jacket like Eph Hanks was a descendant of Nellie Unthank, and the other father of the family that came was a descendant of Francis Webster. "Oh, wow!", I exclaimed. We had just read the story of Francis Webster as we were coming along the road that afternoon. And here I was, the descendant of Eph Hanks, and we were all sitting around the campfire together right in front of Martin's Cove! Imagine that...

Elder Fenn told all about Ephraim, starting from his boyhood in Wisconsin. It was so great! I was just about bursting my buttons. Starting with the missionary in the Visitors Center at the beginning, every missionary I talked to loved Ephraim K. Hanks, and when I told them I was his great-great granddaughter, they would invariably exclaim, "Oh!", and give me a big hug. That was really a special experience. While Elder Fenn was talking, the wind started blowing hard and it started to rain a little. He had to cut his presentation short, which was too bad, but it was wonderful to hear what he did say.

As they were leaving, the one brother came up and put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Thank you for your ancestor saving my ancestor!" It was a great moment.

After most everyone went to bed, the wind died down, and Josh and I had a great talk around the campfire. At one point he said, "I'm in a rare mood to open up and talk, so you'd better take advantage of it!" Ha ha - I did my best!

We were packed like sardines in our six-man tent, but we did just fit. In the morning, Joseph woke up and was completely upside down, with his head facing the opposite way of the way he went to sleep. His first thought was, "Why is Peter upside down?" His next thought was, "Why is everybody upside down?" We laughed so hard when he told us about that.
That was a memorable moment, all of us in the tent together, laughing. One of those precious moments, that I want to remember forever.

The morning dawned foggy, cool and windy. Peter and Jesse worked hard to make a fire that morning, as they did the night before. In the pioneer accounts they mention that wood was scarce and hard to find, and we could see how that would be the case.Thankfully at this campground there was a big load of wood for the taking, so we sent the kids over with a handcart periodically to bring in some logs.Mary was a great help with the younger children, especially Camille!After eating some yummy breakfast burritos, we packed up camp,and headed back to Martin's Cove on the actual Historical Trail.Bruce thought it important that the children get a taste of pulling something heavy, so he took it upon himself to climb on the cart and hitch a ride! Luckily, for both parties, this didn't last too long!Lincoln was the next to the youngest member of our group, and he made us laugh to no end. What a character! His grunts were replicated widely, as was his smile.Greg and Rachelle got a rare moment on a handcart together, with Mary pushing in the background.
Jesse B., pictured in the cowboy hat here, grew up in the Riverton, Wyoming Stake, which is the Stake that was involved in the Second Rescue. He was 14 at the time, and was deeply affected by the events that took place. When we invited their family to come, only a week before, he said, "I don't think I can stay away." It was great to be there with him and Britani and their family.I can't even say how proud I was of Joshua, Joseph and Jesse during this Trek. They were pushing or pulling a cart the whole time, and just had great attitudes.

Along the trail we saw antelope, dozens of them, bucks, does and young ones jaunting about the plains. It was an awesome sight!
We hit a particularly green spot, which made for a great picture!
I love this picture of Rachelle. Mostly because I love her. Someday, when I grow up, I'm gonna be like her.I loved the pioneer clothes we wore. It made it SO much more authentic. We borrowed the clothes for Bruce, me, Jesse and Mary from very kind friends. I did make Libby's skirt!! I was glad I made something.

After coming off down the hill, we found Elder and Sister Pae waiting for us. He informed us that the US Army needed soldiers for the Mexican War, so would the men please line up in two lines for enlistment. It was the reenacment of the Mormon Battalion. We said good-bye to the men, including Josh, Joseph and Peter, and they went and climbed up a bluff with Elder Pae. I was doing OK with that, until I looked over and saw Britani crying, and then that did me in. Apparently, Cordell, her oldest son, started to cry becasue he thought his Dad was really going away.This was just one of the many instances on the Trek where one came a little closer to feeling how the pioneers felt. Sister Pae gave us some stories and her testimony, and then we began the "Women's Pull", where the women pull the handcarts by themselves, while the men watched.It was a hard pull! Jesse and I pulled in front,and Mary and Libby pushed in the back. It was short, so it wasn't a big ordeal, but while we pushed, we were pushing as hard as we could. I started to laugh and cry at the same time. It was very emotional.

When the families were reunited, we took the opportunity to get a picture of each family.Here are Jesse B. and Britani and their family.And Greg and Rachelle and their family.
Isn't that what it's all about?? I love these family pictures!

So that was the first 24 hours... To be continued...