Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We are exhausted...

This week was pretty calm which gave us some time to catch our breath. With the day starting at 5:00 am and ending after square dancing at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., it makes for some long, long days. We look so forward to our day off during the week but it is filled with doing chores around the camper and getting more groceries. Even though this is a lot of hard work, we get our paydays in such sweet, gentle ways. This past week someone mowed our lawn for us as we hadn’t had time to get to it. Then there are the smiles and thank you from the youth. And every once in awhile, we get some special dessert handed to us or chocolate. We don’t want that to happen too often because we would just have to work harder to burn the calories.
Most of the groups coming to do trek, schedule a river crossing in remembrance of the Martin Company crossing the Sweetwater to get to the cove. They are to reflect on how cold and bitter it was that day and how hungry, weak, sickly the pioneers were and yet they had to muster the strength to cross the river and pull their carts. Well, we have had to shut down the river for direct crossing as it is over six feet deep and would sweep these youngsters right off their feet with how swift it is running. The snow pack in the mountains feeding the river is still at 350% so it will be flowing full for awhile. Since it is so full, it is flooding out into a spillage area where we let them walk thru. That area is even getting about four feet deep. It is quite spiritual to watch the youth do this as they have to do it silently and by themselves.
As missionaries, we find it very intriguing on how prepared most of the youth groups are to have a great spiritual experience. Each member of most groups has selected a name of one of the companies to walk the trek for. They have read about their pioneer and can pretty much tell you their story. I was speaking with an 11-yr-old young man on Thursday about his pioneer. He told me he wanted to be like his pioneer. I asked him what he meant. He said his pioneer was always prepared for situations because he prayed about it and listened to Heavenly Father and the spirit to get the right answer and then he would do it without question. Now that is truly and stalwart young man. Another group this week took it one step farther. As they finished their river crossing, the leaders pulled the youth off to the side of the trail. They called out a couple young ladies and asked them to remove their shoes as they were going to walk back to the bus barefoot just like the pioneers whose shoes wore out, then there were a couple more pulled out and blindfolded as they were going to walk back blind in remembrance of those who were handicapped and still made the journey, then there was one young lady who was to pull the cart by herself with one of the heavier leaders in it symbolizing the youth that had to take over when the parents took ill, and lastly, one was given knee pads and gloves and asked to crawl back to the bus in remembrance of those who lost limbs from freezing during the journey. The youth took these tasks without grumbling and carried on. It was heart rendering to watch this take place.
Since this week was pretty calm, I will share some pictures of the homestead and Martin’s Cove.
This is the Visitor's Center. It used to be the ranch house for Tom Sun. There are seven different cabins put together to make this one house.
This is Martin's Cove. We love being assigned here as it is so peaceful and beautiful.
THis is Devil's Gate. One of the landmarks the pioneers used to cross the land. Only the river goes between the rocks. The pioneers came to the river about 1/4 mile to the south of this landmark.
This is the barn on the ranch. It is actually our kitchen where we have our wonderful Sunday potlucks. It is quite a quaint building.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Look at the Blessings

Just who are these people?

A snapshot of the Sweetwater River from Veil Bridge

Standing guard at the Welcome Post

One of Randy’s assignments is to orient trek groups as to the rules of the trail, why they are here, and to give them a little spiritual boost by sharing a couple pioneer stories and small video with them. On Monday, he was starting to tell a group about the video and who it was about (Heber McBride) and this young 12-year-old man raised his hand and suddenly got antsy in his seat calling out, ohhhh, oohhhh, ooohhhh. Randy acknowledged him and the young man blurted out, “I know him, he is my genealogy dude.” He then pulled out some index cards and started reading from them. Come to find out he was directly related to Heber’s brother, Peter (which you will have a couple stories about in my emails). Randy said he was so excited to make the connection and know his “genealogy dude” used to be right here. These youth sure are teaching us to love the small stuff!!

Tuesday was our day off so we went to Casper to spend the day with Kathryn, our oldest granddaughter, as it was her birthday. I was so excited for this day as I knew we would have fun. When we got to the house, she had a friend there whom had spent the night so we took her with us and doubled the fun. Of course, Randy and I had errands to run and the girls were very obliging to let us get them done and then we went to lunch at a quaint little Italian restaurant. Kathryn’s and my best Italian meal is Chicken Alfredo and that’s what we had. Kathryn’s friend surprised her with a big dish of ice cream with a candle for dessert. The look on her face was priceless!! The girls were so cute because they saw my pioneer dresses in the back of the truck when they first climbed in and asked if they could put them on for the day. We had a great day together just laughing and talking.

Kathryn and Sidney -- a couple of sporting young pioneers. Not so sure the shoes are the right ones though.

The Pony Express Rider handing out the letters--it was very cold that night

We had another week of evening activities for the trekkers. Thursday and Friday night Randy was the local Pony Express Rider and delivered letters from home to the trekkers. We can’t ride in on a real horse but the rovers are mules so we improvise. That’s what you do when you don’t have the real thing. Watching the faces of those youth as they are awaiting their letter is so precious as they just light up when their name is called. One young man got three letters so he was the talk of the prairie. We square danced Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night with different groups. Randy was suppose to call for the second hour of Monday night but the group had arrived so late they cancelled their square dancing. Wednesday night really touched our hearts and has buoyed us up the entire rest of the week. There are several couples that help with the square dancing as there are anywhere from 50 to 450 youth in a group. Each couple takes a set of eight boys and eight girls to be their small group to work with. On Wednesday, I was given our group to take over to the area and line them up for the Virginia Reel. No big deal, just waved my arms for them to follow and started walking that way. When I got to our spot I turned around and started talking to them about dancing and all I got in response was big, bright eyes starring back at me. Ummm….not a very excited group, I’m thinking. After a few minutes, one of their leaders walks over and tells me they are deaf. Okay comes out of my mouth while my heart is busy with prayer because how am I going to do this. So, I begin to teach them using the little signing I know and physically guiding them. Oh, I did develop my own signs too just hoping it would help. After only going through the moves about four times, they caught on and were ready to give it a spin when everyone else was done being instructed. By giving them the pre-instruction we were able to work on how I could tell them by signal when to start each movement. It was so fun to work with them as Randy and I would take each couple and physically show them how. Their eyes would just beam when they caught on. We had a great time and a very successful time. Lots of hugs were given at the end of dancing. Then the sweetest confirmation of how much they appreciated the time and effort happened on Friday. Randy and I were walking out to the truck after our shift and the youth from our square dance group saw us and ran up to us shaking hands and giving big, big hugs. They were signing over and over, thank you for teaching me square dancing, with big gigantic smiles on their faces. It brought tears to my eyes.

Of course when you have over 3000 youth wandering around there will be incidents occur and hopefully not too drastic of ones. This week was no exception. One of the young men of a group wandered, probably sleep walking, out of his tent and disappeared. When his group noticed he didn’t come back (as they thought he was going to the restroom), they alerted the leaders. The leaders looked around for awhile and couldn’t find him and soon notified our director of the situation. So a couple Elders and the leaders looked through all the camp, other group camps, the entire other campground, all the roads in the area, even 10 miles away at Muddy Gap. They looked for over three hours and then found him in the wrong tent fast asleep. Next time, I am sure the entire camp will be woken up and searched right at the beginning.

For several years, a very special visitor joins up with the trekkers. We have all be awaiting this visitor and were afraid he wasn’t going to come this year. His name is Oscar and he is a Great Pyrenees dog that lives on a ranch about 10 miles away from the cove. Oscar finally showed up on Saturday and came into the homestead off the trail with the Hobble Creek Stake of over 485 youth. Oscar carefully picks his groups he travels with and it is usually with someone he senses is having a hard time either physically or emotionally. He is known to protect the youth also. A few years ago, Oscar followed a group of boys back to their tent and began to bark. Oscar had discovered a rattlesnake inside. He even protects some of the youth while they were doing the river crossing. He will now stay at the homestead until fall and then he will walk back home and rest for the next year. I was at the Veil Bridge yesterday and was able to watch Oscar in action coming in with his handcart family he had chosen which had a young lady which had to be hauled out in the handcart. It was amazing!!

Oscar, the Trek Dog

The handcart family he was escorting

Our little friend outside the camper--isn't he adorable!! Oh, maybe it is a she.

Just wanted all of you to know that the wind is still blowing in Wyoming. I am sure glad I liked to be rocked!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Split Shifts

One of our beautiful sunsets we enjoy in the evening

This week was the first week of scheduled split shifts due to the longer summer hours. One shift works from 7:30 a.m. to around 1:30 p.m. and the other works from 1:00 p.m. to around 7:00 p.m. The missionaries were divided into two teams and each team will alternate working morning one week and then afternoon the next week. We are on Team B and had afternoon duty this week except for my office duty days which I work in the morning on Monday and all day until 5 on Thursday. The blessing of this type of schedule is we have half days which we can do laundry, clean the house, and other small things around the camper and some valued down time.

Okay, so I thought our days would slow down and not be such marathon events. It somehow slipped my mind that we are here also because of the thousands of youth trekkers whom come to experience the pioneer trail. Our first group of 284 from Cody arrived on Thursday morning and then two more groups of around 50 each arrived in the afternoon. The big group spent the day pulling handcarts along our six mile trail and then departed in the evening while the two littler groups pulled handcarts to their campground six miles away to spend the next two days trekking along the trail. Each group begins their trek with an orientation which Randy had the opportunity to do for a group Thursday afternoon. Then, we as missionaries stay at certain posts during their trek to share stories with them and to give them certain experiences like a river crossing and the men’s callout/women’s pull. To end their days, we either do square dancing with them or reader’s theater with Ephraim Hanks and Thisbe Reed. Thursday night we had our first big square dance event and what a blast it was. I was able to help a group of 20 youth learn the dances and Randy was pleased to dance with a young girl from a family trek that was about 10. She was so cute and so were her sisters. So, our days are now starting with prayer meeting at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. with dancing and a whole lot of activity in between with visitors and trekkers.

This week our posts were at Martin’s Cove, the Visitior’s Center and the Welcome Post. It is so surreal to have duty at Martin’s Cove and to be up there in the beautiful scenery and just reflect on why we are here. While we were on post, a family group of about 20 came up. They walked the trail along the cove which is quite an adventure in itself but to top it off they pulled their grandma and grandpa in rickshaws as they were unable to walk the entire way. We were able to share all the pioneer stories we learned for that post with the family and they were so interested in them. It was a great first post assignment. While we were there we had the company of a snake, baby rabbit, chipmunk and lots of birds. Nature at its best.

Randy watching for visitors

More of a perspective of how high up he really was

When we were at the cove, the ranch hand’s wife and two children, her parents and sister with her six children (ranging from 1 to 10) came up. It was great to see her as she just moved here this past week. The ranch hand just started the job earlier this spring so they are new to the area. (Oh, have I mentioned in any of my writings that this is also a working ranch with 1200 cattle.) Randy was with another couple so I started sharing with this family. Well, it was fruitless as the children were just pinging off everything. The boys were climbing the rocks up the mountain and the girls were walking the rails around the seating area, oh and the baby, was trying to go down the steps after just walking for less than a month. I was a nervous wreck and tried to do my best to explain this was a reverent place and should be treated with respect. The grandma was trying to calm them down along with ask questions as she was thrilled to be there. It was quite chaotic. Well, then when we were at the visitor’s center on Tuesday, guess who came to visit and it was yours truly time to meet the next visitors. Inside my head, I kept saying that I needed to rush this through and get them well on their way especially for my own sanity. But then in my heart, I was impressed to do something which became the coolest experience of the week. I gathered the entire family on a grassy spot near the handcarts and then asked them to pretend with me. So, we pretended we were a family from England that had heard the gospel and wanted to follow the prophet and go to Zion with all the Saints. I shared with them all the events of preparing to go from selling all our personal belongings (even had them name something it would hurt them to sell), to getting to the ship, riding on the ship and getting sick, then getting on the rail cars and being crowded so had them squeeze closer together, to finally getting to where our handcarts were. Oh, but we had to wait for them to be built, so the ladies and girls had to sew tents and the men and boys had to build the cart. Then we were able to start off and I had them get three carts and we walked thru Prairie Park, a small trail that has bronze reliefs in it telling the story of the Martin Company. As we were going thru Prairie Park, we were still our family trying to make it thru the bad weather, little food, our clothes wearing out and I would tell them about a lady in our company that lost her husband because of illness, about being scared to cross the river and getting help, about losing one of the boys as he got to playing too far from the trail. All eight children were totaling intent on what was happening and I feel really gained a great experience from presenting the history like this. Grandma and the mom’s had tears in their eyes watching their children really grasping the significance of it all along with learning themselves. I am so grateful I was an instrument in the Lord’s hands for this family and them for me.

Our day off was Friday this week and we spent the entire day at the camper. After taking it easy for an entire day, the next morning we went for a small walk, worked in our little 10’ x 12’ yard by fertilizing, cutting and watering it. We also moved some rocks which were a tripping hazard. Saturday afternoon we were welcome post attendees greeting all the cars as they came into the site. It was really slow with only about six vehicles but I was able to get some office work completed as I took our computer with us to the post.

Our little friend at Martin's Cove

Our bigger friend at the Visitor Center

Friday, June 3, 2011

Climbing to Higher Places

I know this update is a little late. This past weekend just seemed to fly past me. In fact, I think it got caught up in this prevalent wind and blew straight to Nebraska. Plus, I was physically drained (which you will understand in just a few) and took a good Sunday nap. Every Monday and Thursday, I will be working in the office and Randy will be on work crew. This has been quite challenging for me as there is so much I want to do to help organize all that happens in the office and two days a week just won’t be enough. I like to tackle a project and stick to it until it is done; not so sure it will happen in this case.

Randy was called upon for his electrical skills again this week. A couple of the missionaries were using the small backhoe to dig up a clogged pipe and ripped a major electrical line in half. Then a few days later someone else was using the backhoe again and did almost the same thing in a different location. I think it is time to check for the backhoe driver’s licenses. So, grateful I have such a knowledgeable husband who can help out at times like this and get things up and running again in just a short time.

Randy teaching Elder Swope how to fix electrical lines that have been sliced.

Tuesday we were scheduled for the visitor’s center where our responsibility is to welcome the visitors and be their guide around the homestead. We were able to become acquainted with a future Ma and Pa that will be accompanying a trek youth group in June. They were traveling through from a visit in Texas and wanted to get a visual of the area. The highlight of our day was getting to know a pair of elderly sisters which were descendants from three families in the Willie Company. What a delightful time we had with them. In the visitor’s center, we have a display which lists all the names of the company and it was so special to watch these sisters point to the names and tell us stories about their ancestors. They shared a story of how their great great grandmother had a hand woven sheet from Denmark with her when she was coming across the plains (her prized possession) and when the 13 died in Rock Creek Hollow after crossing Rocky Ridge, she used her sheet to cover the bodies when they were buried. And one of them buried was the 10 year old son of their great great grandfather thru another line. It really emphasized how the links of life are so inter-connected. When we took them to the cove, we all just stood there and wept as we talked about how much suffering yet strength was displayed by the strong handcart pioneers of the two companies.

Wednesday was our day off and we decided to make a real quick trip into Casper to get a few groceries and return some items before our evening activities. To our surprise, we ran into Sylvia and Patrick, our daughter and grandson, at Walmart. For most of you, it is common to be shopping and run into one of your relatives but for us, this just isn’t the case as we have never lived in the same town as family. It was the coolest experience and placed a big smile on my face for several hours.

Friday was another marathon adventure day for the missionaries. The weather was finally clear enough for us to travel to Rocky Ridge (about an hour and half from here) and Rock Creek Hollow (yet another two hours from there). Rocky Ridge is the highest point of the four trails (California, Oregon, Pony Express and Mormon) with a 700 ft elevation gain in about two miles. All I can say is it was upward. There are no vehicles allowed on this part of the historic trails so we walked it. We took two handcarts as there were some young family members who joined us and the leaders were not so sure they could make it all the way. It was a very cold and VERY windy day. We bucked a strong headwind the whole way up. The carts were suppose to allow everyone the opportunity to pull them but the trail was tough enough for our older missionary friends so two other younger couples along with Randy and I ended up pulling them half way up and all the way back and yes, they had children in them. Coming down we had a young girl about 15 which had just gotten out of a leg cast on Wednesday and was now in a walking boot. By the time we got to the top we could understand why it is called Rocky Ridge. The trail was solid layered rock and very rough to pull the carts over. It definitely gave us an appreciation of what the Willie Company went through and we had a lot more comforts of life (like coats, good hiking boots, food, strong bodies, etc) then they did. Once we reached the top, an Elder played “Come, Come Ye Saints” on his harmonica. It was heart touching and then we all sang the last verse to celebrate our success. This adventure did me in physically and kept me down a couple days but I am grateful for the experience. After we returned to the vehicles, we then continued to Rock Creek Hollow. It snowed on us as we traveled there. In fact, right at Rock Creek Hollow is still five foot drifts of snow. I think we all would have enjoyed a good snowball fight if we weren’t so tired from the climb and cold from the weather.

The caravan of 23 vehicles traveling along parts of the actual trail on our way to climb Rocky Ridge.

Driving along the Sweetwater River. Notice how much water there is and the snow from the mountains hasn't started melting yet.

All of us starting up the trail. See the vehicles below and we were at least able to park halfway up from the river. Yeah!!

Then I turned around and snapped this picture of Randy at the beginning of the trail.

Sister Turek and me struggling against the wind to pull the cart up the ridge.

Elder Erwin...he is 83 years old and was so tired when we reached the top that he just laid down. We used his walking sticks and made the cross. Of course, I tried to explain to him that we weren't allowed to bury anyone along the trail anymore.

Randy on Rocky Ridge studying the rocks

See the rocky trail? It was this way for about a half mile or more.

Snow drift

Well, not all jobs are fun and games around here. Saturday, Elder Smith and I had the pleasure of restroom assistance duty. Yep, we were glorified sanitary engineers cleaning restrooms, common areas, and collecting trash. My worst housekeeping task is cleaning the toilet and I was blessed with the opportunity to clean 22 toilets which is only half of what there is to do because the others weren’t open for business yet. The schedulers were nice to me and broke me in easy. Again, it was another windy day in Wyoming so we had to chase down the trash we were collecting a time or two. What a sight! I must say though, I have the best partner for my assigned duties.

Saturday evening we were blessed to attend a fireside with Julie Rogers. She paints scenes of the handcart pioneers and other church history. Walking into the trek center that evening was like walking into an art gallery. She brought several of her paintings to display and it instantly brought faces to the stories we have been hearing and studying. Listening to her spiritual experiences during painting a certain picture is so amazing. She loves using descendants of the pioneers as her models which in turn connects the models with their ancestors. She always has red, orange and yellow highlights in the snow she paints with the pioneers and she explained to us that this represents the fire in the hearts of the people to live the gospel and the covenants they had towards the gospel. I will always remember that when I look at her paintings now. It was a calm and refreshing end to a very busy week.