Monday, June 15, 2015

Handcart Trek June 2015

Our Stake went on the Martin's Cove handcart trek for youth conference last week.  I was so excited that Neil and I were asked to go as a Pa and Ma of a group.  It is really saying something that I was excited to go since I am not known for being a good sport about camping.  Neil was able to go four years ago, but I couldn't go because Lydia was a baby.  I have wanted to go and share that experience with Neil.  Trek was an amazing experience for me.

Monday, June 8th, Day One:  We didn't leave until about 3:00 in the afternoon.  I was busy trying to get things ready right up until we left.  We left MaryAnne, Dallin, Joshua and Lydia home with Bethany and Julia. Bethany changed her schedule to work in the afternoon so Julia could work in the morning.  We took Matthew, Emma and David with us on trek.  I was so excited to be there and share the experience as a family.  None of our kids were in our trek family, but we still got to see them often.  We drove the van down and pulled the scout trailer full of trek and camping things.  We had a van full of kids from the ward.  All was well until we stopped in Riverton to pick up pizza for the ward for dinner.  As we pulled in to Riverton I was telling the kids that it is jinxed for us to stop at the Little Caesars in Riverton.  Twice we have stopped there and not been able to start the van again.  Neil stopped to get gas and then the van wouldn't start again. I thought he was kidding, but he wasn't. It really wouldn't start.  We bought some new fuses. Neil and Kjeldon played around with it.  We called Brother Shoopman to let him know we would be late bringing the pizza.  He said he would come back and help us, but then we got it started.  Thankfully we were able to get going down the road again.  We got to Martin's Cove about 8:00 that night.  The swarms of mosquitoes were out in full force to greet us as we set up camp.  Thankfully we didn't get too many bites even though there were lots of mosquitoes around.  We met our trek family about bedtime.  We had a great group of youth to trek with.  We really enjoyed trekking with Caden, Isaac, Dallin, Jaedan, Katelynn, Hailey, and Callin.

Tuesday, June 9th, Day two:  We started our day out bright and early.  The cowbell rang at 5:45 to be ready for prayer at 6:00.  We had breakfast, and packed our lunches then drove the hour to Martin's Cove.  We met our family and got our handcarts. The first thing we did was go to the Visitor's Center and watched a video.  The youth joined in singing The Fire of the Covenant.  It was such a moving experience for me.  I couldn't keep the tears out of my eyes.  I love this song now.  It brings an amazing spirit with it.  Paul Cardall was also featured playing the piano in the video.  I noticed that Paul Cardall's fingers are clubbed just like Joshua's.
After the visitor center we went to Fort Seminoe to hear the stories there while the Martin Company started trekking to Martin's Cove.  Fort Seminoe is where the Martin Company was camped waiting for rescue. The leaders made the decision that they needed to move to the Cove to have more shelter and firewood.  They had to cross the river in below zero temperatures.  Some of the people simply couldn't do it.  Young men stepped up and carried people across.  We had the opportunity to cross.  Neil, Matthew, Emma and David crossed the river, but I didn't.  The missionaries there told us that every year on November 4th the missionaries cross the river like the pioneers did.
We ate lunch and then walked up to Martin's Cove.  It was the hardest part of the whole trek.  It was hot.  We left our water bottles in the hand carts, but went back to get them.  There was one hung man that was pouring his water out because he didn't want to carry it.  I thought it was interesting that we can provide opportunities but can't make kids want to learn. I hope he had enough water.  President Hinckley used to love to sit at Martin's Cove and just think.  The spirit there is amazing. We walked about 6 miles total.
When we got back to camp we cooked dutch oven pork chops and rice, and peach cobbler for dinner.  It was delicious!  The kids had free time and there was square dancing for those who still had energy. The boys from our ward played a frisbee game.

Wednesday, June 10th, Day Three:  We didn't start as early in the morning because we didn't have to drive.  We trekked right from camp.  Today had two highlights for me.  The story of Elsie and Jens Neilson was reenacted by Brother and Sister Lewis.  Jens was sick and couldn't help pull. His wife, Elsie, put him in the cart and attempted to go on by pulling him.  She couldn't do it on her own.  It was neat to hear the youth ask if they could help her and then run down the hill to help.  It was very powerful to watch.  The next highlight was the women's pull.  Seeing the men stand at the top of the steepest hill of the trek and hold their hats to their hearts was neat.  The girls did a great job making it to the top of the hill.  Many girls ran back down the hill to help after they got to the top.  That is what sisters in the gospel do, they look around them to help others. The Priesthood is so important in our lives.  It is good to learn that we complete each other not compete with each other.  We got to hear lots of stories again today. It was a good day, not as hot as the day before.  We crossed the river again.  Hailey wanted to borrow my water shoes so I had an excuse not to cross.  We walked about 6 miles again.  We finished before the Martin Company so we walked back to the river crossing to take pictures of the kids from our ward in that company.  It was fun to see Matthew and David.  Matthew crossed again today, but none of the rest of us did.
We cooked dutch oven chicken and potatoes.  It tasted good.  After dinner we had a fireside about the second rescue.  In 1992 the Riverton, Wyoming stake worked to do the temple work for the people who died in the Martin and Willie handcart companies.  It rained on us in the night, but we stayed dry in our tent.

Thursday, June 11th, Day four:  We went to Rock Creek Hollow for a testimony meeting.  It was a great meeting.  13 people are buried in a common grave at Rock Creek Hollow. Two of the people that helped dig the grave died the next day and are also buried there.  One of the boys that is buried there is James Kirkwood.

James and his family were among the first converts in Scotland in 1840. Their home was always open to the missionaries. James was baptized by Elder James MacGregor on April 28, 1856, just prior to sailing for America. James’s father and two sisters had died in 1852, but his determined mother gathered her four sons and set her sights on Zion. Margaret sold precious possessions, including her beautiful handwork to help with finances. Margaret’s prominent family were fabric designers who had disowned Margaret for joining the Church. 

Robert (age 21) and his mother pulled Thomas (age 19) in the handcart as Thomas was crippled and could not walk. James was primarily responsible for his younger brother, Joseph Smith Kirkwood (age 4). One night Margaret put their only loaf of bread in bed with them to protect it from freezing. Joseph knew not to touch it, but was so hungry he began to pinch off small pieces. “The temptation was too great for such a hungry four-year-old and by morning, Margaret and her sons’ day’s rations had disappeared.”

On October 23, the Kirkwoods made the 15-mile journey up Rocky Ridge in a storm. This 15 mile journey took up to 27 hours for some to complete. Margaret had one eye freeze and was blind in that eye the rest of her life. James and Joseph became separated from their mother and fell behind. Margaret waited for her sons by a small fire until late that night. When the pair finally arrived at the campfire that night, James set his brother down, whom he had carried most of the way up Rocky Ridge and then died from exhaustion and exposure, literally giving his life for his brother.  With determination, he had faithfully carried out his task and saved his brother. 

The biography of Joseph by his daughter, Mary, states: “Next morning when arriving in camp the brother James fell dead due to starvation and cold. He was buried on the banks of the Sweetwater in a grave with twelve others.”

James' story is a fairly familiar and commonly told story about Willie Company. But his story is oft repeated for great reasons. It is a beautiful example of love and devotion for ones own family. I ache for his mother when I think of what she must have been feeling. I cannot imagine her pulling her handcart with only her 21 year old son to help and the added weight of her 19 year old son in the handcart. Then to lose her two younger sons in the blizzard and wait for their arrival. How her heart must have warmed to see her 11 year old James carrying his 4 year old brother on his back into camp. And then her sadness when James passed away. I always think of Matthew when I hear this story. I that Matthew would make sure his brothers and sisters got to safety even if it took all he had to get it done. One of the boys in our trek family bore his testimony.  He told about how he didn't want to come, but his mom wanted him to come.  He said it had been a great experience for him and he was glad he came.  I am glad he had a good experience.  The missionaries told us that 22,000 youth will go on trek this summer. There were other groups from  Kansas and Canada while we were there. 

We drove home without any incidents.  We got back about 6:00. The girls had dinner ready which was great!  They did a great job taking care of things while we were gone.  I was so grateful to be able to go.  It was an amazing experience for me.

Here is a quote from Elder Ballard that I love. "

"We cannot begin to understand the journeys made by those who laid the foundation of this dispensation until we understand their spiritual underpinnings. Once we make that connection, however, we will begin to see how their journeys parallel our own. There are lessons for us in every footstep they took–lessons of love, courage, commitment, devotion, endurance, and, most of all, faith. Handcarts were heavily laden with faith–faith in God, faith in the restoration of His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and faith that God knew where they were going and that He would see them through. We all face rocky ridges, with the wind in our face and winter coming on too soon. Always there is a Devil’s Gate, which will swing open to lure us in. Occasionally we reach the top of one summit in life, as the pioneers did, only to see more mountain peaks ahead, higher and more challenging than the one we have just traversed. And how will we feel then, as we stand shoulder to shoulder with the great pioneers of Church history? How will they feel about us? Will they see faith in our footsteps? I believe they will. We will learn, as did our pioneer ancestors, that it is only in faith–real faith, whole souled, tested and tried–that we will find safety and confidence as we walk our own perilous pathways through life. We are all bound together–19th and 20th century pioneers and more–in our great journey to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and to allow His atoning sacrifice to work its miracle in our lives. While we all can appreciate the footsteps of faith walked by Joseph Smith and his followers from Palmyra to Carthage Jail and across the Great Plains, we should ever stand in reverential awe as we contemplate the path trod by the Master. His faithful footsteps to Gethsemane and to Calvary rescued all of us and opened the way for us to return to our heavenly home. Joy will fill our hearts when we fully come to know the eternal significance of the greatest rescue–the rescue of the family of God by the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is through Him that we have promise of eternal life. Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the source of spiritual power that will give you and me the assurance that we have nothing to fear from the Journey."

I hope the youth will remember what they felt on trek.  I think that the pioneers were strong enough without these experiences, but the Lord knew we would need to know about what they went through and be able to remember their strength. Could Heavenly Father have prevented them from being in this situation? Of course He could have. Heavenly Father knew the type of people they were, and He knew they would be obedient. When someone asked President Hinckley why our Heavenly Father allowed it to happen he said the primary reason was for us today. He said,"It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation fort he present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead."  Do you think that Heavenly Father knew what you would need today? Of course He did. He knows your name. He knows our potential to become His noble sons and daughters.  He needs us to be strong and faithful. I loved this exepience!  I hope you enjoy the song and slideshow of pictures.

Trek June 2015 on PhotoPeach

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