July 22, 1997
Location: Salt Lake Valley (the right place), Utah - The end destination for the trek across the plains.
Summary: Down Emigration Canyon -- Welcome to Zion
Journal entry: Down the canyon we went, almost at breakneck speed. I'm not exactly sure what our hurry was, but we didn't stop for anything, except to use the "comfort stations" once. All the way down Emigration canyon, people were sitting or standing outside their homes. Many had the remnants of breakfast lying nearby: OJ bottles, cups, empty donut boxes. But now their attention was turned from eating to cheering and encouraging.
About halfway down the canyon, we passed about 70 people on black horses. Each was dressed in pioneer clothing and was bearing an American flag. They waited, clapping, until we had passed, and then fell in line behind us. Eventually they passed us, and it was very impressive to have 70 trotting horses pass. The clomp-clomp of their hooves on the asphalt lasted for a few minutes, it seemed. It was like watching the calvary speed off to battle.
We reached the Santa Fe restaraunt and briefly paused to divide into two companies: Company "A" and Company "B". The first company was comprised of those who had gone "all the way" from the Missouri River, and all the rest of our friends were in Company B. The idea of segregating our unified handcart company was hard to swallow for all of us, and we put up fight a few days ago to stop it. But, the welcome reception was not our party, and we had to abide by someone else's rules.
Company A raced down the canyon towards the mouth. We were literally running part of the way. I think we were trying to keep up with the horses, or else the lead hancart people had drunk way too much caffeine this morning. Amy and I kept falling behind, and little Kalli Hill couldn't run, so we carried her on our shoulders, trying to catch up to a handcart to put her in. Amy took her and sprinted ahead to put her safely in a cart.
Approaching the mouth of the canyon, we saw high rise apartments with hundreds of people on the balconies or on the main level above us. Then through a narrow funnel of people, with yellow police tape on both sides of us. The cheering was almost deafening. Then I began to see familiar faces: Greg, Brian, JaNae, Chelsea and Nicole, so many others that walked with us earlier. We walked past a reenactment of the Nauvoo Brass Band. Then down a two-track dirt road with crowds of people on both sides. We walked past almost two hundred LDS missionaries holding flags from different nations. Then past about 90 people dressed entirely in white. The missionaries represented the thousands who have gone to all nations, tongues and peoples. The people in white were symbolizing the thousands who never made it to Zion.
We went around a curve and up towards the monument. It is a tall pillar with a statue of Brigham Young on top, representing the moment when Brigham Young said, "This is the right place." We stopped below the monument, and soon we were mobbed by people. Families were coming around with "welcome baskets", a tradition from the pioneer times. The Thornton family was assigned to me, and they gave me a basket filled with fruit, hand-made crafts, and other gifts. (Interestingly, the Thorntons had come to Henefer and talked with me and Amy about our engagement. We thought they were just interested, but it turns out that they were on a fact-finding mission.) After a big hug, we were on our way up to the monument. We stood up there while people cheered, then they let us go down to greet our families for a few minutes. Amy's family was there, and my mom and dad were also waiting. After a few big hugs and a few photos, we had a few minutes to talk and laugh together.
Elder Ballard announced that we should go back up to the monument again. There we waited for the First Presidency of the Church to arrive. In addition, six members of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles were there with their wives. Governor Leavitt and Mayor Corrodini spoke, followed by President Hinkley. He welcomed us and thanked us for making the trek. He said that in fifty years it will probably be impossible to do a re-enactment of the trek due to land restrictions. After the meeting, we got to shake hands with all of them.
We were then asked to push our carts over to the back of the park, where the wagons were to stay for the night. It is hot and humid here in the valley, but we are nearly done. I am going to my uncle's home tonight to get a shower and sleep in a nice bed. Welcome to Zion. All is well.