July 18, 1997
Location: East Canyon State Park, Utah - Between Henefer and Birch Springs.
Summary: Henefer and over the mountain to East Canyon State Park
Journal entry: We had a lot of people join us for the trek into East Canyon. It was supposed to be an easy day today, only 10 miles. This is different, though, because it is up for five miles and down for five miles. And it was really up. We stayed on pavement for most of the way. It was only the last mile that we were able to move on to two-track and go into camp. It was a fun mile, though, because we pushed up quite a hill, across the top and right into camp. Some of the wagons took this route, but quite a few stayed on the paved road and had to come in from the lake side of the hill. Afterwards, we heard it was quite a difficult thing for some of the horses, as the pavement was a little slick. We were fortunate not to have any accidents or problems with the animals. Everyone came into camp OK.
We are in a lovely camp at East Canyon. The view of the lake is specta- cular. Many of us took right off and jumped in the lake as the walk and pull today was very strenuous and hot. My kids have this habit now of just jumping into water-clothes and all. What can I say? I guess it's a great way to wash your dusty clothes.
I have saved til almost last my interview with Leon Wilkinson. Leon and his wife, Judy, are from Bloomfield, Iowa. Leon is the big boss of the wagon train. He describes his job as the chief operations officer. We all look to him as the final say about a lot of what goes on with the trek. I have had a lot of time to watch Leon in action. We will all remember him with a great deal of fondness. I truly believe Leon and Judy do not have an enemy anywhere. He has that great ability to keep peace among a great many individuals who are very strong willed and determined. Leon is a retired school administrator for junior and senior high school. Leon taught math for 32 years and was also the athletic director for 20 years. I guess he has had a great deal of experience at tempering what could be hot situations!!!
I asked Leon what ever got him into this wagon train thing. It is really an interesting thing that happened to him. He said that in 1937 the National Park Service started marking the Mormon Trail through Iowa. Right across the road from his house, in rural Iowa, was one of these markers showing the route of the Mormon Trail. This made quite an impression on him because it was a long time before he even knew what a Mormon was and here he was living on the Mormon Trail. It was part of the romance of the trails that has impressed him since childhood.
When Leon retired from his school administrators position, the Iowa chapter of the Mormon Trails Association was just being organized. Leon thought he needed something to "keep him out of the beer joints" (we both had a good laugh over that one) and joined the chapter. Here he met Larry England and became quite involved in the JL2 Trek across Iowa in 1996. This was supposed to have followed the Mormon Trail from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters. He said he just really had a good time with that and it was a perfect set-up for the Mormon Trail Wagon Train for 1997.
Leon began with the first publicized group meeting for the 1997 Mormon Trails Wagon Train in August of 1996 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. He was appointed chief operations officer because, he was told, "You're the only person that no one's mad at." Leon is truly a peacemaker.
Working with the strong-minded individuals out here on the trail is no easy task. Leon says he tries to keep the goals of the group in mind and work for the good of the group. He says it is really tough to bend these strong wills and work for the groups' welfare. But he says the goal is the same for us all: To get there alive and in good health. And we need to make this Fun! He says we can disagree without being disagreeable. He says that it has been a lot of pressure and very trying at times, but it has worked.
His main responsibilities are to pass along pertinent information to all wagon train members at the morning meeting. He has helped with permits and worked with BLM people. He also had to work to comply with trafficking situations along the highways. There are many times he has flagged traffic. He and Judy do he mail for the train. He is involved with some of the finances and bills. He has been a mediator with personnel problems and disputes. He is a great guy. We all love Leon.
Right beside him is Judy. We really adore and admire her. Judy is Leon's sidekick and helpmate. She also helps out whenever and wherever needed. She has put in hours and hours at the check-in trailer. I guess we'll always remember Leon for his cheery greeting in the mornings. It is just so unique. And he has the greatest laugh. I would know it any where. We truly love and admire you two. The wagon train just wouldn't be the same without you. So Leon. Here's to you! and "Good Morning! Isn't it a beautiful day!" Thanks you two.