July 15, 1997
Location: Castle Rock Camp, Utah - Between Yellow Creek and Henefer
Summary: I am home
Journal entry: I came home today. Many of us came home today. Even Sandy, who lives in California and helped me pull the handcart said she felt like she was home. We left early this morning, the handcart company. Our last footsteps in Wyoming were just out of camp. The pavement on the road changed colors and we trudged onward. A mile down the road we took off to the right and climbed a well-graded dirt road. We were still surrounded by dirt and sagebrush. It still felt like Wyoming. At the top of the ridge we stopped for a potty and water break. Here we could look down and over the other side of the mountain. It was strange looking down into the canyon, watching those tiny little cars whizz by on the freeway below. It was so far away. We were on the top of the world and could see the hills and valleys below. Somewhere down that freeway was Castle Rock and tonight's camp.
We turned off the good road and took off onto a smaller dirt road. This we followed downward for about a mile when it turned into a two-track and we continued on. The further we moved onward, the farther to the west we could see. The beautiful snow-capped Wasatch Range of the Utah mountains took over, and was a giant contrast to the never-ending sagebrush covered hills of Wyoming.
Does it seem greener and more lush or is this just my imagination? We seem to be walking through more green grass, more obvious wild flowers, more red rock and sand, steeper hills. Maybe the country is changing its appear- ance and I just recognize the beautiful country I grew up in and played in as a child. There is still sagebrush, but it is tall and surrounded by beautiful summer green grasses.
Our trail led down the ridge. I wondered how the wagons would fare on this rather skinny two-track. It even seemed to disappear occasionally. Our little handcart company of about ten handcarts and maybe 150 people slowly made its way down the dusty trail. Just ahead was the top of a ridge, sort of the saddle area. There were the water and potty trucks. They had come up the mountain via a better road to meet us.
Looking about on the top of this ridge was to me a breath-taking sight. I was amazed at the beautiful scenery of the surrounding countryside. It was so beautifully green with grasses and flowers and even bushes and trees. It had been so long since we had seen trees on the trail. It has been just sagebrush and so wildly desolate. To my left and down over the ridge, was the canyon below that leads to Castle Rock. A lot of sagebrush still, but so much lush green grass. The trail was almost non-existent.
After our break, the handcarts took off. We had waited for the wagons to catch-up. They seemed to have very little trouble traversing the trail above us and were also resting in what we quickly named "Tick Heaven". Lots of ticks this year. We all brushed off well. I don't know why. When I saw what we had ahead of us, I knew that we would have to do it all over again.
The walkers took off down the left of the hill on an almost non-existent trail. Just at the top of the hill below us we took off into the sagebrush. I had no idea what lay ahead. All I saw was that the top of the hill ended. I guessed it had to go down.
It did. We followed in a single line and when we hit the top, I sort of gasped. The trail went straight down the hill for at least 500 feet. Yea, right!!!! We're supposed to get these heavy handcarts down that trail without killing the people in front of us?!!
The first cart, which was Ted's took off. They blazed the way and we all followed. (But not too closely!) I walked down. The handcarts seemed to have plenty of people on them. We call everybody "brakes" when we go down. I looked behind as I wended my way down, trying not to crash and burn myself. The Race family was quite a ways behind me and Harmonie was having quite a struggle keeping the cart from getting away. It was a monumental struggle.
We have intentionally not put a lot of weight in our carts--ever! I can't imagine handcarts filled with all the personal belongings you own, coming down this trail. They would have been incredibly heavy. They would have had to take them down one at a time with everyone's help on every cart. It was a dusty, rocky trail down that mountain. And such a relief to get to the bottom.
When I got to the valley below, I was one of the first to turn around and watch the scene behind me. It was from a movie. The dust was flying. People were yelling "Brakes! Brakes! Hold on! I need help. Pull back!" It was a struggle and everyone who could was helping get those carts down the hill without incident. I watched for several minutes. When we all got to the bottom, it was such a relief to know we had made it.
The trail led gradually down a slight declining path, wending its way through shoulder high sagebrush. Lovely green grass and flowers lined the way. The flowering plants we see here mostly are thistle. I guess it really is a noxious weed, but the blossoms on them right now are beautiful purples and pinks and white.
The way is kind of tough to get through because it is obvious that it has not been traveled on recently. Stewart Glazier has told us that this is the authentic trail we are on today and we have had special permission to bring the Mormon Trail wagon train through here. The land is privately owned and the owners have given the train special permission to pass. The trail will then be closed again. It has been a very special privilege and honor to be a part of this event. Especially with the ability to pass over this land that our ancestors followed. We want to thank the people who own this land. It was so very kind of you to let us pass.
As the handcart company rolled on down the trail, I could not go on. All I could think about was how are those wagons going to get down that mountain? I pulled out of the trail and made my way back up to watch the wagons come down the hill.
The morning was getting warm and there really was no shade. I found an open area where there was no sagebrush or thistles, took my jacket out of my backpack and laid it on the ground. I had a great view of the hill behind, so I settled down to wait.. The trail was just off to my right about a hundred feet. I was sort of hidden from view and anyone would have to be looking to see me. A father and mother were walking the trail with their small son. I could easily hear their conversation.
As I focused on what I thought was a wagon above me, it was a trio of horsemen. The Sheriff and Highway Patrol have sent uniformed riders out here to be with us, and they were leading the train. They had not come down the trail the handcarts had followed, to the right of the hill. They followed a gentle swale from the left side of the hill, down around and onto the trail below. The wagons were rolling. The first, the second, the third topped the crest and slowly wended their way down the gentle slope. I imagined the people in the wagons did not think it was a gentle slope.
A hill. Not a large mountain of snow-capped grandeur.
A hill. Lying between the ridge above and valley below.
Red rock and green sagebrush. Thistles, purple,
Handcarts before, wagons to come.
A mom, a dad, a bobbing child with endless questions.
A cheery trio, walking the dusty trail.
"This is the trail your great-great-great grandfather
walked when he was about your age. He came with
his mom and dad in a wagon. They moved to
to have a new home. He was a very brave
"Was he just like me, Daddy?"
"Yes, my son. Very much like you."
Father to son to son, the tales are told.
The torch was lit.
The memories grew dim, but grow brighter as the
tales are told and passed on
From father to son.
From mother to daughter.
From generation to generation
Let the light never fade. Let the tales never die.
Each wagon swayed back and forth, and appeared to almost tip over. As they reached midway down the hill, each in turn made a gentle curve to finish the descent and finish at the bottom of the hill. With so many wagons on the trail today, almost sixty, the dust was flying. It looked like a hazy movie scene. It was truly a sight never to be reproduced in my lifetime. As the wagons followed the contour of the land and traversed each little hill and vale, they made a curving scene of wagons with white, canvas topped boxes, and steady pulling animals. I alone watched the re-enactment at the bottom of the hill, with my private viewing, in my front row seat, with no pop-corn chewing neighbors to disturb my peaceful moment of blissful solitude. It was a memory moment.
A few passers-by spied me sitting there, on my jacket seat, and waved a cheery hullo. I waved back. "You were part of a beautiful moment," I whispered to myself. I could almost picture "them" passing by and waving hello. "Hi, great-great grandfather. You're almost to the Valley. We're almost home!"
I followed the wagons down the dusty trail. The occasional breeze helped clear the air, so I did not constantly have to breathe through my apron. I was the last walker through the gate. It was closed and locked behind me by a cheerful horserider. "Thanks for letting us through. We really appreciate it." He waved a cheery 'You're welcome' and we stopped to eat lunch.
We had all the watermelon we wanted at lunch, thanks to the Smiths store in Park City. It was great. A lot of people went into Cache Cave during lunch to see signatures from the old pioneers. After lunch was a four mile stretch over a sage brush hill and onto a frontage road into camp. But before we started over the hill, we all had a big, huge surprise. There was a rather deep, swampy area we all had to get through. The horses and wagons did great. They just pulled on through. The walkers and handcarters just looked in awe. It was get-wet time.
Dallin and I were pulling a cart. Looking back now, I am glad I had a cart to hold on to. Otherwise I probably would have lost my balance and fallen over. This did happen to a few people. Most of us took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our pants, tucked our skirts in our waistbands, and took off. It was about knee-deep on me. It hit Dallins thighs. And it was squishy and muddy and filled with tall grass. It was a riot. Everybody just hooted and laughed through it all. We had to have help with the carts. Ours sort of got bogged down. Some of the shorter ones got water in their carts. But it was really fun.
The next mile through the sagebrush was so DUSTY. After the wagons go through dirt, they pulverize it and it becomes like talcum powder. When you step on the trail, the dust just flies, and a little breeze pushes it around. Grant said "The second worst dust on the trail." And we were all covered with brown dust. What a pathetic sight.
Finally, onto the frontage road and into camp at Castle Rock Ranch. It was a beautiful place for camp.
Tonight the Park City area came up and served us a delicious dinner and we had a program. The fun part was they came to join us...hundreds of people. It was WONDERFUL! I wouldn't have believed we could get so many people in there. But we did and it was so fun. Thank you for the great time. And thank you Castle Rock Land and Cattle Co. for the wonderful experience and your great hospitality. It is so appreciated and will be a treasured memory for all of us.
Today was truly a memory day. And I must say that I love being in Utah for this is truly my home. As I recall that dear sister in Nebraska as she lovingly looked over the sandhills, and that wonderful woman in Wyoming who thrilled at the hills and sagebrush of South Pass, I am one with you. No matter where home is, it is the best to us. I love Utah.
My mother had a favorite song that always brought tears to her eyes. I have inherited her tears for this song. Verses 3 and 4 go thus:
Away beyond the prairies of the West
Where exiled Saints in solitude were blest.
Where industry the seal of wealth has set
Amid the peaceful vales of Deseret.
Unheeding still the fiercest blasts that blow.
With tops encrusted by eternal snow.
The towring peaks that shield the tender sod
Stand types of freedom reared by nature's God.
The wilderness, that naught before would yield,
Is now become a fertile, fruitful field.
Where roamed at will the fearless Indian band.
The templed cities of the Saints now stand.
And sweet religion in its purity
Invites all men to its security.
There is my home, the spot I love so well.
Whose worth and beauty pen nor tongue can tell.
"The Wintry Day" by Orson F. Whitney
I am home.