June 16, 1997
Summary: A long, long, long hard day
Journal entry: A new dimension has been added to my life on the Trail...my family. I am afraid the reality of it all came crashing down on our heads and life is a new ball game.
We were excited to get going from Ft. Caspar. We had the usual morning of getting ready, lunches, water bottles and rush off to the morning meeting at 6:30. My children planned on walking today. The original 22 miles has now been revised to 25 miles. The seasoned walkers know that could actually go to 30. I know what 20 miles can do to a greenie walker and I am worried! Although my kids are older and strong, even 25 miles to us regular walkers is a killer of a day. What do I have to look forward to tonight with my children? I know the value of the experience here, but I am not about to let stupidity rule my emotions.
We started out fresh and early. The body count today (live bodies) is over 600 people, including about 260 walkers. It is a mob. They told everyone to bring up their tents and provisions for tonight and it would be shuttled to the next campsite. Well, you can imagine the mountain of tents, sleeping bags and provisions that showed up on the lawn. Our normal small pile suddenly was humongous!!! It filled the bus, a large pull-behind trailer, our 15-passenger van (that my husband is driving) and an additional flat-bed trailer. I have never seen so much stuff!!!! It was an incredible sight.
And now somebody had to load this stuff on all of these vehicles, and then unload it at the next campsite. What a nightmare! Since my husband is not participating in the walking, he has volunteered to help. Well, it took forever to load all the stuff, then they had to drive it 30 miles and unload it. That took a good part of the morning, and Art (my husband) said once they got to the next camp and unloaded, it started to rain and I guess it rained a good one. They tried to cover everything with tarps but who knows what got wet. The hill was slick (you know, that good old gooey, slick clay) and he had to wait two hours for it to dry, so that he could get out on the road again. His job is shuttling people back to Casper so that they can shuttle cars for people to tonights camp.
I guess there were over 60 cars to shuttle. People from the Casper ward were called to help and I guess it was a logistics nightmare. We ended up at the end of the day taking lots of people back to Casper to get their cars. This shuttling thing was a trial and I guess it didn't work. And hopefully people will be responsible for their own tents and belongings. That's the way it should be.
On the trail today it was really a very good day. It was cool most of the day and at lunchtime we had another soaking rain, so people were able to cool off. My children spotted a little family early on that we knew more than likely would need help with their handcart. It was a young family from Arizona, a dad and mom and four little children.....the oldest looked to be about 6 or 7. There were two kids asleep in the cart and they had filled it with their provisions for the day. Dad had made the cart and they were excited to be on the trail. Dad and mom started pulling, but it became evident real early on that mom was needed for the children. So one of my girls stepped into the pulling position, while mom took off.
Soon, mom couldn't handle the two older kids. They were lagging way behind, so dad turned over his pulling position to my other daughter and went to help his wife with the kids. Soon there were four children on the handcart, my two daughters pulling, my son and I pushing from the rear, and mom and dad walking. We jostled the pushing positions with the parents occasionally, but with all the kids in the cart, and with the weight distribution all at the rear, I could tell my girls were having a really hard time pulling. They pulled for quite a while and soon Maren said she had to get out. So I put my son in. We were heading up some really good hills out of Casper and it was getting really tough. We traded off the pulling positions and soon the dad and I were in the front together. We had a really hard hill to climb. It was long, long, long. We were pretty well matched on our stride, but it was so hard!!!!
I intentionally slacked off for several minutes and I could tell that dad was struggling. Fortunately for all of us we had a potty break and I could get out of the front position. During the break, dad did a major job at repositioning the weight and even took out two of the kids. My slackening accomplished exactly what was needed......a total re-thinking of who is pulling this handcart, and how to let the realities of handcart pulling sink in. This is NO PARTY. This is HARD HARD work and this is not your fantasy pioneer life. I think Dad got the picture.
We pulled until lunch with a better weight distribution, two kids gone, and a straighter, flatter road. At lunch, mom and the kids were put in a truck for the rest of the day (I told Dad this was a great idea) and so in the afternoon with killer hills and such, the job was not as tough.
One other thing that we observed was that they refused to drink enough water. This is a really common problem with people out on the trail. By the time the day was over, my kids and I had drunk at least 7 liters of fluid each. We were constantly encouraging them to drink and eat snacks and it almost gets old, constantly telling people to drink. We take lots of water breaks and you will frequently go past several potty breaks and not have to go even though you have had lots and lots of fluids. I was concerned for this little family and was really relieved to have mom and the kids off the trail at lunch.
My son was really having second thoughts at 15 miles. Even though the food and water was not a problem, you get to the point where you ache and your feet hurt so bad. I remember how much I hurt. He jumped on a shuttle and went on to camp. I was glad.
The rest of us continued on. At 20 miles, we were getting numb to walking. For some reason today, even though this is my ninth week on the trail, I felt as if I was starting all over again. The bottoms of my feet burned and I felt as if I was getting all those blisters all over again. Back in Nebraska, our days were 12, 13, 15 milers. Here, for my kids first day we were anticipating close to 30 miles. I was worried. They were getting blisters. They weren't bad yet, and we drained some at lunchtime, but the ability to just pick up your feet and put them down in front of you, becomes almost impossible at about 22 miles. Everybody that drove by gave us a status report on our distance and how many miles up to camp. It was just total endurance. We would pick a point ahead and make it to there. Then we would pick another point and make it there.
By about 23 miles we had to abandon the handcart. Fortunately there was a strong boy to help dad get the cart to camp. We just were trying to get ourselves in to camp. Occasionally, people just stopped walking and sat down. It would take two of us to get them up and get them motivated to start walking again. That Alex at the end of the walkers talked one boy about the last three miles in to camp. He was incredible with him. I can truthfully say I don't think I would have made today had it been my first. It was a hard day even for those of us who were seasoned. We climbed a lot of hills and it was just hard!!!!
I saw a lot of heroes today. At 15 miles we were still basically OK. At 20 miles, we were dragging. At 27 miles, everybody who walked into camp was a hero. It was an awful day. The flat land of days gone by, has turned into hills. Hills that grab you and hold you down and slow the wheels of the handcarts and make you want to just sit down and forget this whole miserable experience. My son, at 15 miles, is a hero. He basically pulled the handcart by himself his last four miles and kept it moving. His comment was that even his scouting trips weren't this bad. My daughter said the last 3 miles felt like 300. All I can say is we made it and I don't know how. Even Kathy was limping, and I have never seen Kathy limp.
I guess I should talk about the terrain today. It felt like I was back home in Southern Utah up in the meadows by Panguitch Lake. The only thing missing were the trees. Even my kids commented that it was like home. Since we were up on the hills, the view was beautiful. We could see for a long ways.. The sagebrush and vegetation was so green. The flowers were out and there were birds and small animals.. Because of the weather, we had beautiful clouds. It really was so incredibly remote, but awesome in its beauty.
We went through the area that the Martin Handcart Company was in trouble. There was one area we were shown where the first men found them huddling in the snow. I tried to picture the scene, and fortunately the vision for me is dim. I am just afraid I could not stand to describe the scene.
Our camp tonight was on Rattlesnake Ridge. Before everybody got to camp tonight, the campjacks walked over the field and chased the the snakes into their holes and out of the field. I understand they stopped counting at five snakes. They couldn't find some of them that got away. Oh, it has been a day.