July 22, 1997
Location: Salt Lake Valley (the right place), Utah - The end destination for the trek across the plains.
Summary: A Most Unbelievable Welcome
Journal entry: After weeks and weeks of dirt and grime, blisters and travel, I wondered what it would be like to finally arrive in the Valley. Today we arrived to the greatest welcoming home celebration I could ever have imagined. It was so far beyond my expectations I am humbled to tears.
Today again began early. When we arrived at camp at the top of Emigration Canyon, the day was bright, although we had cloud coverage. Our children were finally out of their sleeping bags and things were being picked up. We had a later departure time than usual, so it was nice to have a little extra time. The thought occurred to me that this was the last time we had to pick up camp and travel for the day. It was an odd sensation.
I had a little problem this morning. I was in a great amount of pain. I guess the walk over Big Mountain yesterday on the pavement was too much even for my travel-worn feet. I had big, painful new blisters and every muscle and ligament was screaming at me. I hurt so bad. Although this final mileage into the valley was only seven miles, the thought of walking - it was not a wonderful thought.
Earl was a wonderful friend to the walkers and brought many of them breakfast in bed. He is truly a wonderful person. He joined us way back in the last part of Nebraska and has become a light and comfort to us all. When people ask him where he is from, he always answers "The Mormon Trail Wagon Train." This is his home.
The wagons headed out first. They passed by our camp and we cheered them on. This has become a sort of tradition. When they leave camp first we stand by and cheer them, wishing them a good, safe day. After they had a good start down the steep road, we fell in behind. I gave security a few headaches with my usual late start, and I was, as usual, last. I walked carefully to avoid the pain in my legs, but after a few miles, I just couldn't walk any way without just hurting everywhere up my legs and the farther we walked, the worse it seemed to get. I was just amazed that on the last day of the trek I would hurt so much. I thought that after this much time I would be tough.
The thought has occurred to me that what we are doing and feeling is very much the way our pioneer ancestors felt, including my pain today. I feel that there were many many people who walked into the valley in a great deal of pain, whether it be physical pain, or mental pain. There was such an array of feelings: joy, gladness upon their arrival, sorrow at having lost loved ones along the way, grief, despair. And today, although I was so very happy to be coming into the valley, I had great sorrow at having to end such a glorious experience. I do not believe the early Saints entered the Valley with no pain. I think, although their joy at arriving was real, they felt a great deal of sorrow and pain. I will never remember this without feeling their pain also.
Closer to the valley, the handcart company was divided into two groups, those who had travelled the entire distance from Omaha, and those who had joined later. I wasn't there to be in the first group because my dear husband was having to practically carry me. I was again at the end, hobbling in. We walked only as fast as I could stand it, and again we were at the end.
As I look back, I was glad we were slow. The wonderful people in the canyon had gathered along side the road, to welcome us home, and my slower pace allowed us to visit with these good people. They were so wonderfully joyous in our arrival. The closer we got to the mouth of the canyon, the more I realized that this was no ordinary celebration. The throngs of people were everywhere. Not only did they line the road, but they were waving from the apartment buildings way up on the hillside: hundreds and hundreds of people.
Art and I walked out of the canyon and the sight before our eyes was that of thousands of people. There was a small pathway before us and lining each side were cheering, waving throngs of joyous people. I was more than overwhelmed as the tears streamed down my face. Art and I walked on and we could not believe the sight. It was truly a glorious welcome.
The brass band played a cheery tune. Missionaries stood on the hillside holding flags from many countries. In the distance I could see a large group of people, dressed in white, representing the 6000 people who had died along the Mormon Trail. I just could not hold back the tears. The sight was totally overwhelming to me.
Now and again a familiar face was there, and I waved madly. To all of you who came and cared and felt the presence of our ancestors that day, I can only say thank you. We were totally unprepared for this glorious welcome in to the Valley. I think the Saints of 1847 felt relief and joy in their arrival, but I hope that somewhere in the great above, they were watching our celebration of them today. And I hope that those wonderful pioneers of years ago, know that the real heroes of today were them. They gave us a great example of strength and courage for their path into the Valley was terribly difficult.
We had so many events happen so quickly this day. My family met relatives we had not seen for awhile, we were given a lovely basket of fruit and food and drink. The family that had our basket had made a beautiful miniature replication of a covered wagon. This will always be a treasured item in our home. We had a welcoming home program with a great many dignitaries present. I couldn' t help but remember the day we left Omaha and the sparse number of people, cameras etc. It was cold and rainy. Today, the people and the news coverage....the cameras and photographers, it was incredible to me. All I can say is thank you to you all. Somewhere along the way, the Mormon Trail wagon train has captured the imagination of the people of the world. We all are feeling the goodness and strength of the pioneers of this world, and this wagon train has been a symbol to us all of the pioneering spirit in humanity.
There is goodness and love, caring and strength in all of us. The pioneers of old had these qualities and the pioneers of today do also. It is our duty to follow their example and continue on the good things in life that they were seeking.
A rather cute event occurred with the group of Handcart four...you know the Funcart! First let me tell you what happened a few weeks ago. We had stopped at Little America, way out in Wyoming to use their restroom. We had a group of kids from the handcart company with us. While we were sitting in the ladies restroom, the girls started singing a silly song about pie. They had to name a pie that started with each letter from the alphabet. Well, before they were done I was laughing and totally sick of this song. People walked by and I am sure they thought we were totally insane. Any way, this cute lady stopped to talk and we told her we were from the wagon train. We laughed and visited. But before she left, Kathy mentioned that there was a tradition that when the wagon train gets to Salt Lake, people give us pie. I couldn't believe what she was saying. It was just totally funny and outrageous. And a total lie. Anyway, you guessed it. There in the crowd was this cute lady and she yelled out for handcart four and handed them a pie....an apple pie. What a funny, thoughtful thing to do. The kids opened it and scooped it out with their fingers and ate the whole thing....right there. Thanks, Sandy, for the pie.
Today was full of celebrating. This is the Place park was a busy place. Tonight we had an excellent dinner at the Bowery with awards and honor for many. The number of people in the park was estimated at over 50,000 today for the welcoming in celebration. There were at least another 10 thousand outside of the park. It was just wonderful. We can only say thank you. Thank you for your love and caring and concern and prayers in our behalf. Our journey, though long, was blessed with miracles of faith and healing, safety and love. We all felt the presence of a power watching over us and protecting us. It was real. It was great. Thank you. Thank you.