Thursday, July 30, 2015


 Some may recognize the title of this post as words from a song rendered by pioneers as they made their way to the Salt Lake Valley during the great immigration of the 1840'- 1870's.  We have just passed the celebration day (July 24th) for the arrival of the first company into the valley in 1847.  For Latter-day Saints, it is a significant milestone – one that signifies the release from the persecutions of our early history.

My life has not been tested the way my ancestors were challenged.  Comfort and ease has been the ‘lot’ of most of my days.  And even when they were not companions, they were not far away and easily returned to stay with me and my family.

This summer, Teresa and I were privileged to participate in a fantastic experience that has given us a renewed appreciation for those who made our ‘comfort’ possible.  As part of my employment, we are allowed to participate in something called a Pioneer Trails Workshop – basically a re-enactment of the crossing from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City.  Fortunately, we are not expected to make the trek in wagons or handcarts, but with experienced leaders we are given a very detailed itinerary that guides us along the major parts of the journey.

So, I thought it might be nice to share a few things we experienced as we trundled from Nebraska to Salt Lake City during the week of July 20-25.  This will not be in great detail, but will highlight some of the most interesting events of the week.  Hope you enjoy and can appreciate, just a little, what our forefathers gave to find peace.

A slight rain as we began our journey at
4:00 am on Monday.  The vehicles were provided
by the Larry H. Miller dealerships at a very reasonable
rate.  It was also our privilege to have Gail (Miller) Wilson as
one of our participants on this excursion.
Our SUV was a delightful Honda Pilot that
makes me think we might go that way when our next
vehicle purchase comes around.

The adventure began at 0:dark thirty on Monday morning, July 20.  There were 14 vehicles in our caravan and we were separated into four groups – Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow.  There were three vehicles in each group except for green which had four.  Our little Honda Pilot was designated Blue 3.  Each day the order of color would change so everyone had a chance to be in the front.  Whomever was in the last car of the convoy was given the role of ‘tail-gunner’ and was responsible to keep watch over the whole crew.  It was all very organized and as we would find out, essential to our success.

We are the 11th vehicle in the line of 14. On the third
day we were 'tail-gunner' but we used the moniker 'Stinger'
to let them know there was someone special in the line
taking care of the stragglers.

Most of the whole first day was spent streaking across I-80 to Scott’s Bluff, NE.  The plains of Wyoming and the flatlands of Nebraska are not really great tourist destinations so there isn’t much to report there.  It was long and boring, broken up by monotony and napping.  There was one stopping place that held some interest: the commemoration of the Lincoln Highway rest stop.  This was the first transcontinental highway and was completed in 1913.  While I am in favor of making a display of the events, my own appraisal of the statue of Lincoln is that it could have been slightly more professional.  But my tastes don’t usually appreciate some of the more interpretive arts. 

It doesn't look so bad in the photo.
As to not waste too much time, we began our touring immediately upon arriving in Scott’s Bluff.  Though tired, we thoroughly enjoyed climbing the Bluff and touring the visitor’s center.  There were also some pioneer graves and stories we found before our eventual falling into bed for the night. 

I should explain that we had a crew that was ahead of us who were tasked with setting up our camp each night.  Their duties seemed difficult but they never complained or acted put out by any requests.  It was a pleasure to have such good help on such a long voyage.  We also enjoyed the services of a cook crew that joined us the second day and provided amazing meals in the wilderness.  All these folks are volunteers who appreciate the wonder that is a Pioneer Trek.

Our first tent city -- Bonus sunrise in Nebraska.  We don't get them
like that in Utah.

For the next five days our whole life was consumed with searching out and enjoying the places and travails experienced by the pioneer companies.  Rather than give a long dissertation on the events, I am going to post some pictures of different places and put a short caption to highlight the activities.  Maybe that will make this a little more palatable for those who are not anxious to read a lot of my ramblings. Just know that we were very moved by the whole experience and have a greater appreciation for those who blazed the way for our survival and freedom.  

Scott's Bluff -- a landmark for most pioneer
companies moving west.There were several passes
in this area that led to the west.
Rebecca Winters Grave --Fantastic
story of how this came to still be there after
all these years.  Check it out here


That's the famous Chimney Rock.  It is much shorter than when
the Saints came but is still an impressive site.  

Every morning at 5am there was a man who would walk throughout the camp with a bell.  He didn't ring it loud, in fact, if you weren't part of our group you probably would notice the noise.  But it was loud enough for us to hear.  On the second day I grumbled a little and said, "go away."  Instead, the man with the bell came back and added a few more strikes to his bell -- just for us.  From that day forward he made it a point to visit and give us a little extra incentive to rise early.

I was asked, on the last day, if I wanted to know who the bell ringer was.  I said NO cause I don't want to have the negative image attached to someone I probably like and work with.  :-)  But I do intend to write a poem in honor of the "Man With The Bell" which I might post here if I like it.

This was one of our favorite spots.  It's called Ayres Natural Bridge and is found in the midst of a barren stretch of the plain.  The Pioneers would come here to relax, even though it was miles away from the regular trail.  This is a panoramic view taken from my phone.  Very Peaceful, green and so different from the rest of the landscape.

This is the same place but a more extensive panorama.  That's my little sweetie in the foreground.  She was such a positive influence that I can't remember having one moment of negativity while she was with me.  Sure do love her.

All our vehicles lined up, waiting to make the next leg in the trek.
What you can't see is the 'potty truck' that has a huge line.
Those guys were always ahead of us and ready to provide all the
necessities we needed.  We loved the guys because there was
always cold drinking water, music, and clean potties for us to use.

Independence Rock was a massive chunk of granite sitting
right out in the open.  it's about 160 ft. high at its highest
point and probably 300 ft. or so long.  This is a cave called
Clayton's Cave where we met (after a considerable climb)
to enjoy the cool of the place.

From the top of Independence Rock you can see the remnants of our campsite.  The previous night the tents were all assembled in a circle (one year they used them to make a heart for a couple who were having an anniversary).  When we got back from Martin's Cove the wind was blowing really hard.  All the tents were moving with the rhythm of the winds and if you watched carefully, it looked like they were doing a little dance as they waited for us.  Almost like a chorus line with their grace, precision and beauty.  Or maybe I was just imagining things in my stupor of sleeplessness.

On our way to Martin's Cove.  The trail is well marked and not excessively long (though it was harder than we thought).  A very spiritual place where many of the Martin Company passed away from the cold and severity of their trials.  All of this is part of the Martin's Cove area owned  or leased by the Church.  We also made our own 'crossing of the Sweetwater River' while we were there (didn't want to walk to the official place to cross -- 5 more miles).

All companies who traveled the Mormon or Oregon Trail  came to this place --
"The Parting of the Ways".  To the left is the road that leads to Zion/Salt Lake Valley.
On the right is the way to Oregon and other places.  We are symbolically pointing to
show that our choice is to go to Zion and be with the Saints.

Strange looking -- these domes are used to make charcoal for use in smelting ore.
They are in Wyoming and were a vital part of building up the Salt Lake Valley.
Much of the charcoal was shipped to SL and helped build the city.  There used to
be 12 of these but the others have been vandalized.  We went inside one and sang
a hymn to see how it sounded.  It must have been OK cause the birds that have nests
in there just stayed and listened. I have a video but it won't post here.  I will keep trying.

I think this is just before we descended "Gravel Hill", one of the steepest places on the trail.  We had to lock the vehicles in 4WD and go very slowly to get down safely.  The Immigrants had to use different methods to get down -- usually locking the wheels and then tying the men to the back of the wagon would work.  It was a dangerous part of the trip but they never quit.

I guess that about does it for this issue of my blog. This past week was an exceptional experience for my favorite girl and me.  We have tried to visualize what it would have been like -- knowing that we can't do justice -- to be pioneers seeking a better, safer life.  We are so thankful for those who endured and made our lives the wonderful experiences we are having.  Our hope is that others will benefit from what we have done and will feel the same when we are gone.  It is good to be alive and know that God cares enough to let us find happiness amidst the pains and trials of mortality.

See you next time.

No comments: