June 26, 1997
Location: Rocky Ridge - 241 miles left, Wyoming - [forever connected to the Willie Handcart tragedy]. (Dangerous to wagons, and ought to be crossed with care) - 772 miles from Winter Quarters.
Summary: Rest day at Rock Creek
Journal entry: I am sitting at the top of Rocky Ridge. This is the highest point on the Mormon trail -- over 7500 feet. It is quite windy up here, but the nice thing about writing on a laptop is that there are no pages to get blown around.
The climb up the ridge was rather gradual, but it got rocky near the top. There are about 30 cows walking around up here. The ridge gets its name because the rocks are jutting out of the ridge at a 30 degree angle, pointing towards the west. Looking around, I can see the Oregon buttes (near South Pass) to the west, the Windrivers to the north, and the jagged mountains near split rock to the east. We have left the Sweetwater and will go up over South Pass tomorrow.
Near the very top of the ridge, there are grooves in the rocks carved by the thousands of wagon wheels that have passed this way. Bits of iron have been transferred from the metal wheels to the surface of the rock. The iron has oxidized and now there are indelible rust marks witnessing, "Here passed hundreds of thousands of pioneers: Jim Bridger, Brigham Young, the Pony Express and so many others." They all funneled through this narrow neck called Rocky Ridge.
Rocky Ridge is where Captain Willey and his handcart company were rescued in the winter of 1856. The captain and a few others went up over the ridge, found help, and then went back to the base and helped their company over. Thirteen died at Rock Creek, and the two that helped bury the dead then died the next day. Going up the ridge for us wasn't remotely as bad. NBC news was shooting footage, maybe expecting to see us struggle and strain. I kept on thinking, "If they only could see us trying to go up in 3 feet of snow."
Getting to the base of Rocky Ridge was quite an experience. We shuttled there in the school bus. Larry was driving. We went up some inclines and past some steep ravines that caused a lot of white knuckles. I thought more than once that we were all going to die.
Up on top, I met up with a group of LDS youth from the Providence 8th ward near Logan, Utah. They were going down the back side of the ridge, so I hopped in their nearby trucks and we drove back to Rock Creek, passing an old Pony Express station on the way. I sat in the cab of one of the trucks, next to Bishop Bruce and his wife. Somehow we got split up from the other trucks, and we waited for them for over an hour at Rock Creek. But they were very generous and fed me lunch while I waited. Thanks again for your hospitality.
Tonight at supper there was an exciting announcement: the Days of '47 parade committe has asked us to walk in the parade on the 24th of July. That means I get to hang out in Salt Lake two more days than I expected. Hooray.