Friday, July 31, 2009

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...


The Draper Fam said...

Oh wow. My eyes are watery. Looks like you guys had some incredible experiences. What special families...
Can't wait to hear more.

mjblogger said...

Libby is sitting way over on the side of the bench at the river crossing because she was making room for me as i was walking over there.


WhettenWild said...

I love reading about this Lorena.

Who made all of your clothes. You guys looks so cute.......and too clean. ha ha!

Kendra said...

This has been fun to read. Our family went to Martin's Cove in 2005. It was an amazing experience for us, too!