June 11, 1997
Location: Glendo, Wyoming - Location: 42:30:10N 105:01:32W Elevation: 4714 feet
Summary: Douglas to Natural Bridge
Journal entry: Today's walk was quite a lovely walk. We took a dirt road all day long that paralleled the hills to the south of the valley. I guess it's south-- to the left of us. We had a nice view of the valley. Everything is green and flowers are everywhere.
I assigned myself to a rather discouraging position in the train today. At the very end. There is an interesting mentality that most of us have noticed about our position on the wagon train. Those of us who are on for the long duration, especially those on the handcarts, prefer to have a position closer to the front of the group. It seems to be a lot more up-beat. It is easier to keep going and not lag behind. When I walk at the front with Bob who carries the American flag, it is uplifting to know you are at the front. It is almost like the power of the group behind you is making your walk a little easier--sort of pushing you along. Virginia says she refuses to be farther back than the last three carts cause it is so easy to drop back and once you have dropped behind, forget it. It is hard to catch up.
Talking to the outriders and horsemen, it is the same. Those horses do not like being at the end of the train. They are always prancey and want to run and get ahead. I guess it is really a problem sometimes keeping those riders behind the wagons.
So, anyway, I assigned myself at the end to help with the stragglers. Alex is also there. He has been given a walkie-talkie and can communicate with Mike if there are problems. Today we had problems. First of all, we did not have a pick up vehicle for several hours. The mechanics are working on the bus and we weren't given a wagon. And there were some people who really wanted to walk, even if only for a little ways. And so we were just pushing and encouraging, and getting farther and farther behind. The little children have problems with keeping up, also. The pace can be a little fast if you aren't used to it.
Another problem we are dealing with is that we are getting higher in elevation. We are almost to the 5000 foot level and some of these folks are here for only a few days and they are accustomed to the sea level or slightly higher elevation. So, it was a very tough, discouraging day for me. We don't let anyone get behind us, and there were times when I was very last---and it was way back there.
For some of the folks who are very slow I have tried to develop a motto. It is "You can be at the front of the train or the very end of the train, and the distance to camp is still the same." Sometimes it helps.
So what did wagon and hand cart trains do with real stragglers? There were people with bad feet, tired bodies and minds who just sat down and gave up. There were sick and dying people. There were people who got lost or were captured by Indians. There were stragglers at the end of the train. It is a real discouraging thing to be at the end and watch the train go out of sight and you can't catch up. And then to be healthy and strong and to stay behind to help, you also know it is going to be very difficult to catch up. I couldn't stand being there for the whole day and after lunch, I moved up and walked with the group. It was so discouraging.
Fortunately for us, the bus showed up and picked up the stragglers at the end who couldn't walk any farther. We still had people walking into camp two and three hours after the wagons came in. It was a big eye- opener for me to be at the end.
I wonder how many of the 6000 who died were just left behind and never seen again....our stragglers. This is real life.
Tonight I shuttled back with several folks. We went to the laundry, bought groceries and ate at Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. I came out here to experience some of what the pioneers did. I think we are accomplishing part of that, but how lucky we are to not HAVE to do that all of the time. Besides, it is impossible to do that. We have too many restrictions on our time, our movement through the states, schedules, etc. So for some of you who may be disappointed that we are not doing the pure pioneer thing, remember that we can't. We cannot shoot the deer and antelope we see at the side of the road for our food. We cannot wash our clothes in the lakes and streams. We are required to have porta potties to keep the way environmentally safe. People have restricted our access across the trail because it is their private property. We have a lot of problems in moving this massive city everyday with people coming and going all of the time. We are not living in the 1800s. We still have to deal with the logistics of 1997. Our problems of then and now are miles apart, but our one goal is the same. They accomplished the goal of getting to the Valley and we will do the same.
I cannot end this day without mentioning our visit to Natural Bridge. It is like an oasis in the desert. What a beautiful place. We had the fortunate circumstance of seeing a family of baby raccoons there. They were just tiny and having a very difficult time maneuvering across a tree limb. They had quite an audience for awhile. This natural bridge has a river flowing under it. It is really a pretty place. We would like to have camped there, but there are a lot of rules and restrictions for its use, so we went back to camp. Since camp tonight was so small and limited on space, I shuttled on to the next site at Glenrock for the night. It is a pretty place with lots of trees.
It is good to go to bed, esp. since my day started so early. I forgot to tell you that I walked around with Brother Jenkins today to wake everyone up. It was 4:30 and I had already showered and done my hair and so I just walked with him and had the pleasure of ringing the cowbell. It was esp. sweet in the big room with all the sleeping walkers and handcart folks.