June 19, 1997
Location: Martin's Cove - 302 miles left, Wyoming - Not mentioned in Clayton's journal. Fifty-six members of the Martin Handcart Company died here while waiting out a fierce storm, November 1856. - About 707 miles from Winter Quarters.
Summary: Rest Day at Martin's Cove
Journal entry: Woke up today and spent some time reading parts of Ephraim Hanks' journal for the documentary video crew. Ephraim was one of the pioneers who came to rescue the Martin handcart company in 1856. He heard a voice that told him to go out to meet the handcart pioneers, and he felt inspired to kill a buffalo along the way. It was that buffalo meat that helped feed the starving and freezing members of the Martin company here at Martin's Cove.
The Martin's Cove area is gorgeous. The Sweetwater river meanders through this valley. The pine trees up on the rocky hills remind me that we have gained elevation since Nebraska.
We had a devotional and testimony meeting up in the cove. Some people walked the 2 miles from camp, and others shuttled over to the gate and walked about a mile up the hill to a green area. From where I sat, I could look over the entire Sweetwater valley below. I leaned back in the soft grass and listened to accounts of the tragedy that occurred here. My mind tried to reconcile the two images: on one hand, those horrid scenes of freezing pioneers, and on the other hand the glorious scenery around me. How would the Lord allow such an event to happen to His children? Why was I enjoying with so much pleasure the view of His creation in front of me? I had a reassuring feeling that "All is well". I know that He is the Creator, and that He constantly has our welfare in mind.
While the experience of the Martin handcart company might lead some people to doubt the existence of God, it did the opposite for the actual handcart pioneers. Not one of the survivors ever left the church. I feel that the adversities and joys of our modern-day trek are doing the same for me. As the meeting ended and I walked back down the hill, I talked with a few people about our experiences as handcart pioneers. When I got done chatting, I looked out across the river to see that most of the cars were leaving the parking area.
Thinking I was going to be stranded, I cut through the meadow (instead of going on the long, curvy trail across the bridge) and plunged into the river, holding the contents of my pockets and my hat in my hand. The water rose up to my chest, and it was cool. When I got to the middle where the current was swift, I had to paddle with my right hand because the current took my feet out from under me. I got out on the other bank, drenched but refreshed. As I walked up the hill to get a ride, images came to mind of those boys in the rescue party who stood for hours in the icy river helping to carry people across. Good LDS youth who were taught to serve. Contrary to rumor, there is no record of any of them ever dying as a result of their exposure that day in the Sweetwater.
Tomorrow we begin again to follow the river on our way to the continental divide. Zion is getting closer.