The Preston South Stake youth traveled to Wyoming on July 29-Aug 1, to reenact a small portion of the trail traveled by pioneers who settled this area — specifically, the most tragic portion of the Martin and Willie handcart companies’ journey. The number of leaders traveling with the youth was very restricted due to the number of permits issued by the BLM for traversing Rocky Ridge.
Youth were privileged to visit Martin’s Cove, Rocky Ridge and Rock Creek Hollow where they heard stories of heroic deeds, miracles and severe deprivation. They visited some of the known gravesites of those who perished on the trail. The youth walked in the footsteps of the many who have gone before, pulling handcarts and getting a tiny glimpse of the conditions the pioneers endured.
The two days were spent in the Martin’s Cove area and included square dancing, a “women’s pull” and a river crossing.
The trail over Rocky Ridge was not a part of the last three treks made by youth in the South Stake making it a new experience for many of those who participated. The trail is one of the most difficult parts of the emigrants’ journey due to a 700-foot gain in elevation over two miles of rocky rugged terrain.
The third day began with just enough cloud cover to dissipate a little of the heat on the climb to the top of Rocky Ridge. After reaching the top the clouds vanished and lunch was spent sitting in the full sun about halfway through the 15-mile trail. Some rested under the handcarts, which were nearly the only source of shade.
The handcarts were pulled through multiple, muddy pon- like areas that smelled of cow manure and decay. Some of the boys from the handcarts near the front helped both the handcarts and those walking get across before running to catch up with their groups.
Another mile or so of walking and clouds began to roll in. Lightning could be seen in the distance and the wind began to pick up as a light rain began to fall. Intense heat gave way to much colder weather. The final resting spot was four and a half miles from Rock Creek Hollow and some of the youth retrieved their jackets or rain gear before moving on.
Popsicles and water were offered but many refused the cold treats because they were chilled.
It was harder than most expected to complete the final stretch but complete it they did. At camp, dinner and some well-earned rest was enough for most to get a second wind and visit the gravesite nearby.
It will take some time for the full impact of the experience to sink in but the youth who participated gained a great deal. They worked together to help each other make it through. They experienced the fickle weather patterns of the Wyoming plains and gained a little insight into the trials, sacrifice and joys of the pioneers. (Read more in Rural Route News, page 5.)