Me and Ray, sopping wet and freezing, somewhere near Sixth Crossing. Remembering Ann and all her various contributions to my pioneer attire, some handmade, some from the Philippines, some both.
Today marks just over a week since our return from our handcart trek. Wow--what an experience that was!
I was on the planning committee to take the youth of our stake on a trek to Martin's Cove, Wyoming (which also included the Sixth Crossing and Rocky Ridge, if you're familiar with that area). We worked on this for months, and it was so strange to have it all be over with after only five days. With all our meetings, thought, prayer and toil, it seemed like it should be more like a two-week event at least!
Young Isaac Wardle, was freezing and starving in Martin's Cove in November of 1856. He thought he was at his end. One of the rescuers asked him to go chop down a tree for firewood before he sat down. Isaac didn't want to and eventually had to be physically forced to go do it. Once done, he was sent back twice to chop down more trees. The process ended up invigorating him and saved his life. These are believed to be two of the three tree stumps that still remain.
At statues of the Sacred Crossing of the Sweetwater.
The young men after they carried all the women across the Sweetwater.
Beautiful, isn't it? At least at this time of year.
For the record, this was actually my fourth (4th) trek--all of which have occurred within the last 13 years of my life (interestingly, none in my youth! Californians don't do treks as much, I think.) So it wasn't too big of a shock to live like a pioneer for a week for me.
What was a shock was doing it at age 39, as opposed to being younger the last three times. I have a healthy, new respect for aging--especially if you're a pioneer. It basically stinks. (Well, both literally and figuratively!) There were plenty of people older than me on this trek, and I looked at them and wonder how they did it?? I think I am just really, really, muy out of shape. Apparently walking two miles on my treadmill almost every day for the last two months wasn't quite the preparation I was thinking it would be. I cannot imagine if I hadn't even done that--how much worse shape I would have been in!
My previous treks all entailed walking a long way, but this one was 30 miles in three days. The most intense by far. And did I mention I'm 39?! I know, it really isn't that old, but boy did I feel like it this time around.
Our last day was a 15 mile walk, and those last three miles were passed by sheer willpower alone. My feet felt like they were on fire, and if I was ever forced to stop for any reason, I would simply buckle to the ground. Tortuous. And to think, the pioneers had to get up again and do that day after day. Oh, the faith.
Want to know how hard the wind was blowing at one point? Just look at the flags on the handcart--normally they hang down.
After the storm.
Trying to just hold on and move forward, the difficult task that it was, brought to mind a quote I love by Jeffrey R. Holland that really applies to people doing difficult things (treks or otherwise). Just last week in Sunday School we talked about the story about Elisha guiding the king of Israel in the war with Syria. I love when Elisha says to his servant: "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them."
What a great reminder, that no matter how overwhelmed you might feel in any situation, if you are striving to do what is good and right, the Lord and His hosts will be there with you, helping you.
But here is Holland's quote: “In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see, riding at reckless speed to come to our protection (see 2 Kings 6:16-17). They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.”
That is so inpiring to me.
There I am in the Harmonica Choir, preparing to perform.
Me and the rest of us playing "Come, Come Ye Saints". Incidentally, did you know that it was "My Day" and Flying Pie Pizza the week before the trek? Yep, it was. Maddie and I went in (she plays too), played a few diddies on our harmonicas and got to make free pizzas! Awesome. I've been wanting it to be "My Day" ever since moving here 10 years ago. Finally!
This is the kid who I overheard saying, "I love hats! They are so awesome! What would I do in Wyoming without my hat??" Yeah, it was pretty hot and sunny at this point of the afternoon.
Following are some photos of a few mud bogs we went through. Good times.
So highlights of our trek for me would include:
*Ray agreeing to go and actually enjoying it!
*Driving out to Wyoming with Ray and Sue Johnson instead of on a bus.
*The Spirit I felt in those historic locations.
*Our reenactment of the Sacred Crossing of the Sweetwater.
*Coming to understand that Wyoming, despite its never-ending plains and sagebrush, is incredibly beautiful. At least in August.
*Gaining a respect for Wyoming weather. As we had heard, storms come on quickly and powerfully. Next time I will plan accordingly. We were hit by several major thunderstorms which wreaked havoc on our campground. Think: tornado!
*Getting to know the members of our stake and enjoying working with them
*Crossing through some huge mud bogs with the handcarts.
*Talking with Ray about how great it would be to serve a mission out there when we're older. Ray was sold when he watched one of the missionaries walk 50 yards from his house to the river to fish!
I know from personal experience that often when people go on treks and are excited to share about it...others often don't share that same enthusiasm. I completely undertand. If I had not been a part of the planning of this trek and been there myself, I might possibly be bored. So if you are still reading this, bless you. And if not, I totally get it.
But I would like to share something powerful that I got out of this, something beyond just the highlights. Studying the lives and experiences of the pioneers as we have, I have gained much from their faith. With some of them it feels as if I have come to know them. Francis Webster, a member of the Martin Handcart Company in 1856, and someone who I love, said something that I find life changing.
The setting was in a Sunday School class in Cedar City, many years after the famous trek of 1856. Some sharp criticism of the church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the Plains with no more supplies or protection than a hand cart caravan afforded.
Francis Webster, an old man by that time, sat in the corner sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.
He said in substance, "I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved.
"Mistake to send the Hand Cart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that Company and my wife was in it... We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that Company utter a word of criticism? ...Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.
"I have pulled my hand cart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there.
"Was I sorry that I chose to come by hand cart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Hand Cart Company."
His words strike a chord with me every time I read them--the beauty of thinking about how we do come better acquainted with God in our extremities. The things we endure--trials, troubles, afflictions, illness, sorrow, death--all the yucky, horrible, sad stuff--they are all a part of the price we pay to come to know God. There is purpose, somehow, to it all.
So in that light, hard things really aren't as bad as they might seem. The good that comes from the difficult (whether our choice or not), particularly in the way they bring us closer to the Lord, makes it worth it. It makes it a small price to pay, when you really think about it.
So what price will I pay? How about you?