First off let me just say if anyone has the chance to go on this trek please make the time. It is worth every moment.
We started Thursday morning bright and early, meeting at the church at 6 am. It was awesome to see everyone dressed in costume and to see how many in the ward were actually going. I think we ended up with close to 200 people (children included), somewhere in the area of 43 families.
We arrived at Martins Cove about 1 and had to scarf down sandwiches before we went into the meeting house. There we listened to one of the missionaries talk about Martins Cove and the significance it has, watched a short movie and then headed out to the handcarts. This was a little pull so we didn't have any assigned carts or anyone we needed to stay with so everyone went where they could. The men pulled the carts about a mile where there was a pavilion set up. From there we left all the kids younger than 7 to play games while we went up into the cove. We first stopped at a little area (sorry I can't remember the name) and had a presentation. a few members got up and recounted the stories of the pioneers they were assigned to. It was very good. After we keep going up and around the mountain into the cove. It was very beautiful. After getting to the top and listening to the stories from the missionaries you could see why they went so far off the trail to find shelter from the elements. We then walked down through the cove and back to the pavilion. Ethan looked like he had a great time while we were gone playing in the water then the dirt.
From Martins Cove we drove back about an hour to the Willie Handcart Center which is where we set up camp. We pulled up and watched the mosquitoes swarm the car. Wasn't a good sign. We found the bug spray, got out and showered in it. That night we had a great dinner, good conversation and then everyone went to bed to get ready for the treks the next day. That night the winds came through the valley and were so noisy Bill and I decided to take the rain fly off the tent so we could get a little sleep.
I got up the next morning, went outside the tent, looked at the skies and woke bill up noting we better get the rain fly on the tent pretty quick. Luckily for us we were able to get it on in plenty of time before the rain started. After breakfast everyone packed up what we needed in the handcarts and headed on the trek. Everyone was allowed to bring a bucket per family to go in the handcart. you could pack whatever you wanted in it, what ever you thought you might need anyway.
The rain started a little before we left so we had to duct tape Ethan's poncho to him so it would stay on.
We were assigned to share a cart with the Robinsons and the Colsons. Bill, Dave and Jared pulled the cart while the rest of us walked behind. Well except Makinly and Ethan who were ecstatic to be sitting in the cart.
Our trek was supposed to be about a 4 mile trek. There was a 10 mile trek that was an option as well. We all left together, in the rain, and the mosquitoes that liked being out in the rain. For the most part we were on a small handcart trail but with all the rain they had received parts of the trail had been washed out so we had to go around and through the mud and the creek/river was too high for us to be able to pull the carts through the water. We got to the womens pull area and an army recruiter came into the group and told all the men they were now enlisted in the army to help in the Mormon Battalion. He gave them a min to say good bye then all the men left marching around the corner. Now I can only give you my side of things, but it was interesting to look at the different reactions people had to this. There were a lot of kids that didn't understand what was going on, or didn't understand they really weren't leaving.
So all the women got together, loaded up the carts with kids and buckets, decided who would be best where to pull or push the carts and one by one we started pulling. It really wasn't bad at first, until it started getting steeper. The last leg of the pull was up this rocky hill that was steep just to walk up without pulling anything. All the men were positioned on each side of the hill with their hats off. Because they were no longer a part of our company they were not allowed to speak or move. They had to let us do it on our own. Bill said that was the hardest thing to just stand there and watch knowing you couldn't do anything to help. Of course we were the 3rd to last cart to go up the hill, I had no idea where Bill was even standing because I thought if I try to find him I'm probably not going to make it up. Not to mention all you could see of them was about from their knees down because you were digging your feet in the ground and at such an angle that was all you could see. Heidi and I choose to pull the cart while Allison and a couple of the older kids pushed from behind. Luckily we had "Angels" (other women) who came down the hill and helped pull and push each cart until they were all up. I don't know if we could have done it without their help. At the top we had a little devotional and then turned around and headed back.
We were supposed to keep going along that trail but with the rain we had to turn around and follow the trail we came in on. When we got to the river they let those who wanted to cross by holding onto a rope. It was very neat to watch those go across.
Ethan literally fell asleep when we came down the hill toward the river. He stayed asleep the entire way back into camp. Through all the mud, holes, rocks and bumps the cart went through.
We got back, had lunch, took naps and waited for those on the 10 mile to return. That night after dinner they had a fireside with people portraying some of the pioneers. Unfortunately when Bill and I went to put Ethan down we stayed in the tent talking and ended up falling asleep, so I'm not sure what else went on that night.
Sat morning everyone got up, had breakfast, packed up and headed to Rock Creek. There we had another fireside and got to learn about that areas significance.
We left for home about 1:30.
It was one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had.