Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pioneer Handcart Trek Day 3; Martins Cove...

Day 3

We were up again before 5am (no wonder it took me soooo long to recover... I need my sleep and 4 hours a night or so, just wiped me out).

We broke camp once again... I think I can put up and take down a tent all by myself now!

Gathered our family for prayer. All were starting to show signs of tiredness, and the Doctor/Bishops son had signs of strep throat (so they put him in a tent by them and to isolate him from the other kids) but all were still in great spirits and all were excited to get to go into Martins Cove.
We had biscuits and gravy for breakfast and loaded up on the buses for a 3 hour drive to the Martins Cove Visitors Center.

When we arrived we got handcarts, loaded up our water containers, and lunch coolers into the carts and gathered for an orientation meeting with the senior missionaries.
We watched a few videos about the pioneers who had sought a place to rest in Martins Cove as possible relief from the snow and storms. And also of the crossing of the Sweetwater River.
Then arranged in companies, we trekked about a mile and a half towards Dan Jones Cove. We stopped for lunch parked the carts. And then walked up into Dan Jones Cove. Dan Jones was part of one of the rescue parties that helped the pioneers in the Martin Handcart company, they later named this cover after him.

We stopped here and sat around the rocks inside the small cove.
The senior missionaries spoke to us, then our stake President asked his wife to share her testimony. She is very sweet and I could feel of the spirit in the cove when she bore her testimony of the Savior.
The Trek choir sang "My Redeemer Lives" and I felt so tender from the beautiful music.
Then our Stake President spoke to us... He talked 1st about the 1st time he had come here alone before the trip 4 years ago to pray and see if it was something the youth in our stake should come participate in. He said he was expecting to feel sad and sorrow and pain from the loss and suffering of the pioneers that died and lost so much here. But instead he felt great joy and great blessings as he entered the cove. He thought this was because of what those pioneers can see now from Heaven... 1 Peter 2:9... He hopes that we can see ourselves how they can see us. They would rejoice to know that we don't have to go as far as they did to be in His Temples. Temples are now all over the earth. This dispensation will end with the coming of Christ. President Hinckley said of the youth today, they are the finest the world has ever seen. It is your quest to see yourself and your great potential.
1 Nephi 14... Nephi saw us today. That is your legacy. That is who you are!
Then President McCune gave a beautiful blessing over the youth there that day... and he promised them "If you stay true to what you know in the covenants you have made - you will be able withstand temptation. You will, in your mind know who you are. If you live righteously - All doubts wil dissapear".
I was crying so hard at this point, I couldn't see to write any more notes in my journal... I just listened. I know our photographers were video taping his words, for the youth to have later.
And I enjoyed just taking it all into my heart, for me, for the young women I am assigned over, for my handcart family and the youth in our ward... but also for my sweet little family. We were not together, we had to sit with other youth we were each taking care of, but we each heard the same Priesthood Blessing upon us.
As we left this shaded cove, we walked around a large 3 mile loop into Martins Cove, very open, not much shade but in between the hills.

When the pioneers took refuge here, in the winter of 1856, there were 19 inches of snow and they took shelter against the side of the hills.
It was a different experience going into Martins Cove this time for me... last time it was quiet, and no one spoke, it was very reverent.
This time the senior missionaries spoke briefly to us directly in the center of the cove, and it was the hottest part of the day, so they kept us moving very quickly out of the cove... not much time to ponder or write in our journals there at all.
I did take a moment to find the tree stump off the side of the trail as you leave the cove. We had read the story of a boy that the rescuers found who's family was very sick and very cold. They sent him off to gather wood and made him stay up all night cutting wood. In his journal pages, he was angry with them, for making him work, when he was so tired, they gave him an old axe that was dull and there was only a few trees, one of which he described in his journal as two trees coming out of one trunk. In the early morning he returned with the firewood he had painfully cut to find his family frozen to death. It was because of his obedience to the rescuers to keep moving and working that kept him alive through the night.
There is a stump, that is just as he described, still there, and looks to have been cut with a very dull axe blade. It is a beautiful reminder for me of the importance of the principle of obedience in the gospel.

(Jacob took this photo for me 4 years ago)

Something else that really took me back, was that all the animals were very close, even with their babies off the trail. And they didn't run away when we walked by. We were quiet, as quiet as you can be with over 200 youth. But they must be so conditioned to nobody ever walking off of the trail, that it is a safety zone for them.

After we left Martins Cove, we headed for the Sweetwater River.
There we listen from the side of the banks to some music as a few of the youth from each company did a re-enactment of the river crossing of the pioneers.
When they reached the Sweetwater River it was 100 feet wide and waist deep in most places, and partially frozen, and many broke down and cried here knowing they could not survive the conditions in their weakened broken state. So 3 courageous boys, 18 years of age waded the river and carried the women and children and the weaker men across the icy waters.

One of the pioneer women who was carried over the river later recalled, "Those poor brethren were in the water nearly all day. We wanted to thank them, but they would not listen to us. My dear mother felt in her heart to bless them for their kindness. 'God bless you for taking me over this water in such an awful rough way.' They said 'Oh, ... I don't want any of that, you are welcome. We have come to help you.' This sister also reported that one of the rescuers stayed in the water so long, that he had to be taken out and packed to camp, and it was a long time before he recovered, as he was chilled through. And later in life he was always afflicted with rheumatism."
These rescuers and what they had done, was brought to the attention of President Brigham Young... when he heard of this heroic act, it is reported that he "wept like a child, and declared that this act alone would ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end."

After the Sweetwater River crossing, we trekked back to Cherry Creek Camp Ground about 6 miles total this day. We had a great view of Martins Cove.
For dinner we had hamburgers. The youth were really good about cleaning up their mess kits. Another worry of mine, that we would lose one to food poisoning, yikes!
We enjoyed another great fireside/devotional from the stake, the pony express came in with letters from home, and then our Bishop gathered us together to talk more about our experiences.
The kids were still all sitting around a fire pit with their letters, so some opened them, and some saved them for later.
This was a very sweet and special time for Jacob 4 years ago, and when Jim and I were asked to write him a letter again for this trek, we both sat down one night when he was out and wrote them separately. Then we read each others letters and we were crying and so surprised that we had written about some of the same things, given some of the exact same advice. But in our own words. We added letters from his grandparents so he would feel more the sense of a letter from home, since we were with him on the trek.
And he read his quietly to himself, but sitting on his bucket in the midst of all of our ward youth. We watched from across the circle and he kept is sunglasses on, it was almost dusk at this time... and he kept wiping his eyes underneath his glasses.
We could tell he was very touched, he looked up and smiled at both of us and the letters were never spoke of again. I can only hope they uplift and inspire him as he can re-read them later. I did see them get unpacked when we got home, and put away in his room.
I took the opportunity to write a letter to Jim when we turned them in weeks before, and when he received it, he didn't know who it was from and opened it and began reading it out loud... it was intensly private, so I abruptly stopped him, and he looked at me funny, without a clue, and put it in his pocket. Later he pulled it out and asked me to read it to him in our tent.
I wasn't sure it had the same affect on him, as they did for Jacob, until later in the Temple he referred to something I had written to him in his letter. It was then I knew, he had heard my words and taken them into his heart, like I had hoped.
The sunsets were always beautiful... this night was no different.
But we also had a storm blow in near and experienced lots of thunder and lightning.
But much to my surprise the rain managed to go right around us. What a blessing.
It left behind a beautiful rainbow that dropped behind the equipment trailers directly into Martin's Cove, where we had felt so much love and peace.
But an early night would not be in the plan for us... it was par that some of the younger youth would really begin to feel a longing for home... and the letters from home really opened some of those wounds. There was a twisted ankle, and a few other minor injuries that we would get to witness the power of priesthood blessings.
It was the perfect end to a wonderful last day on the trail.
It would be our last night, and tomorrow would bring much anticipated clean showers in SLC.

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