Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband! He is such an amazing daddy! He is so willing to jump in wherever I need him. He is so good about getting down on the floor and playing with the kids--or tossing them high in the air, whatever they want. He takes Whitney with him on errands often and she usually comes home with a little something special (like cute tiny pink paint rollers she just needed to paint her room with). He is such a great daddy and I am so thankful to be going on this journey of parenthood with him by my side.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


**Long Post Warning**

Pictures are not in order...
Crossing the River
Coming out of the River

Pulling the cart at the Sixth Crossing Site

Our Family the night before we left

Pulling at Martin's Cove
Martin's Cove
Square Dancing
Mike and I had the opportunity this past weekend to participate in a Pioneer Trek with the youth in our stake. I have been excited about the Trek experience since I heard last year that they were going to be going! I was able to participate in one the summer after I graduated from high school, and it was such a spiritual experience for me that I wanted to go on this trek and was so grateful and ecstatic when our bishop asked us if we would like to be a Ma & Pa.

One of the most special aspects of this trek was the location. We went to Martin's Cove in southern Wyoming, about 4 hours from home. This was one of the actual locations where the Pioneers crossed with their handcarts.

Here is a little background information "Due to a combination of circumstances, the immigrants comprising the last two handcart companies to cross the plains in 1856 started on the journey across the plains much too late to arrive in Salt Lake City before winter began. They were almost two months behind schedule. One of the companies was led by Captain James Willie and the other by Captain Edward Martin. The Willie Company, which was about two weeks ahead of the Martin Company, had difficulties right from the start of their journey. They had trouble with the handcarts made from green wood, buffalo stampedes, shortage of food, and finally with early unexpected winter storms."
"On November 4, the Martin Company was taken about 3 miles to the Cove for protection from the winds, and the availability of firewood. (The Cove is a small valley between a large sand dune and the rock mountain.) Although the Cove helped some during the four days and five nights the Martin Company were there waiting out the storm, it was still very cold and many more would lose their lives —approximately 50-60. There are many special stories of their experiences while at the Cove. However, the great miracle of the Martin Company was that any of them made it from the last crossing of the North Platte River through Martin's Cove alive." (from

We were assigned 7 youth from our ward to be our "family". On our first day, we arrived and were assigned a handcart. We had a short meeting where we watched a video clip of images of the pioneers, had a talk from one of the missionaries serving there and a musical number from a group of Ma's & Pa's. We then loaded our handcarts with our lunches and trekked about a mile and a half in. We stopped for lunch and then left the handcarts and walked the next mile into Martin's Cove. We heard another story from another missionary, and before we walked into the cove itself, we were told that this area has been called the Wyoming temple, and that we were to treat it as such, completing the walk into the cove silently. When we reached the top of the cove, we were taught again by the missionaries. To listen to the stories of the pioneers while sitting where they had been and where many lost their lives was extremely moving. We again walked quietly out of the cove and back to our handcarts and returned to location from where we had left.

After a quick snack, we loaded back into the vehicles and drove about 45 minutes to what is called the Sixth Crossing Site. Throughout their journey, the pioneers had to cross the Sweetwater River several times. The Sixth Crossing Site is just that, where they had crossed for the sixth of nine times. We set up camp, enjoyed a wonderful dinner and then the missionaries had all of the kids out in a field square dancing. Lots of fun! Later that evening, one of the missionaries came dressed up as a man named Ephraim Hanks. He had been a pony express rider and had come across the handcart pioneers. The missionary did a great job and had everyone laughing at all of his stories.

The second day, we got up bright and early, enjoyed a huge breakfast (we had the best food crew!). Then we loaded up handcarts again. The kids had packed all of their belongings for trek in a 5 gallon bucket and were allowed 17 pounds to signify the amount each pioneer was allowed. We carried their buckets along with about gallons of water in our handcart. We trekked for a total of about 10 miles the second day.

Along the trail, we had family stops where we were asked as Ma & Pa to lead discussions on various things. At the first stop we discussed the pioneers' food. By the time the pioneers had reached this area, they had reduced their rations to 4oz of flour a day per adult, 2 oz for children. They would mix the flour with water and drink it. The kids had the opportunity to taste it (not so tasty) and we discussed that this drink only curbed their hunger and that the Lord made up the rest, so that they were able to survive. At this stop we also received a note saying that one of the boys in our family had been "bitten by a rattlesnake" and had to ride in the cart. So we rearranged our cart and put him in. It definitely made the pulling and pushing a little harder. Just before we were about to cross a bridge into a meadow, we were stopped by two brothers from the Stake YM Presidency and were told that our "son" didn't survive his snakebite. He had to get out of the cart and walk alone silently. The spirit was so strong as we entered the meadow. This was the site where the Willie company had been rescued by a rescue party from Salt Lake. I started thinking about my own children, and I just cried thinking about really losing a child along the trail. The saints didn't have time to mourn their dead as they had to keep moving. Because of the snow, they were often not able to dig a grave and simply left the dead on the ground and covered them with snow. Often times, they could not get away fast enough to escape the sounds of wolves devouring the bodies. This meadow area, was also referred to as the Wyoming Temple and was treated with great reverence.

At the second stop, our son was alive again :) We had a talk from a missionary couple about the Rescue of the Willie Company, and then the Pony Express arrived with a letter from home for each of the kids. They each took their letters and found a spot alone to read and reflect upon their journey so far. Many of the youth were emotional and were touched by the letters. Our family had a wonderful discussion about the trek up to that point in the meadow. We asked the kids to share their favorite and least favorite part so far, and the first kid said a fav/least, but all of the kids after that only shared a favorite because they were loving it and feeling the spirit so strongly.

Our third stop was one of the most difficult and most spiritual. They split the women and men up. The men and boys were taken up the trail and left the handcarts with the women and the girls. When the pioneers came across, many of the men were called away to serve in the Mormon Battalion or died along the trail and the women were left alone to pull their handcarts to Salt Lake. After a talk from one of the sisters in the stake, the girls and women had to pull the carts to the next stop without the men. The girls in my family were just amazing, they pulled without ceasing and were so strong. As we reached the top of the hill, the men and boys were lined up on both sides of the trail, silently watching us pull by. It was an extremely spiritual moment, and many of the youth said that it was their favorite part of the trek. It is hard to put into words the feelings that we had at that moment, but the spirit was there and we could feel the pioneers.

At our fourth and final stop, we discussed the Atonement of the Savior and how he can help lift our burdens. After the women's pull, we asked one of the young men to carry a backpack, and the slowly we added water bottles full of water to the backpack as we walked. When we reached the top, we discussed how we are all carrying around burden from sin, just like the backpack and how we need to let the Savior rescue us. That young man bore his testimony today in church and talked about the backpack and how he felt--it was nice to know that it had sunk in a little. At that stop we received another note. It said that our Pa couldn't stand the children crying in hunger and had been giving his rations to the children and become so weak and was near death. We were told to carry him in the cart. That was a difficult moment for both Mike and I and for our family. It was hard to imagine the thought of losing my husband and I was really emotional. Mike had a hard time not helping the family. In the note it said that he would only get well through the power of the Priesthood and prayer. Our family decided to say a prayer and the girl whose turn it was to pray had a hard time getting through it. The kids were definitely quieter during that time.

The final event of our trekking that day was to cross the river. Because of the weather and the height of the river, it was an optional activity. I knew that it was something I needed to do. We crossed a bridge and then walked back to our carts across the river. As we lined up to enter the water, we realized that we had all of the kids in our family but one, so our oldest boy went and got her and told her he would carry her on his back across the river. The water was cold and the current was strong and the wind was whipping, but all I could think about was that it was nothing compared to what the pioneers experienced with ice chunks cutting at their legs and 11 degree below temperatures with 2-3 feet of snow to walk into as they finished their crossing. We were also able to change into dry clothes quickly and had a hot meal prepared for us when we returned to camp.

That night we enjoyed a ward fireside time and listened to each kid in our ward share something they learned or felt through our trek. I was amazed at the depth of understanding that even the youngest children had.