Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happy Pioneer Day!

Pioneer Day is a Utah state holiday that commemorates the arrival of the first group of Mormon Pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

Last year we were very blessed to have the opportunity to “trek” with the youth of our ward on this day. Marty and I traveled to Alcova, Wyoming where for three days we wore homemade pioneer clothing, pulled handcarts for about thirteen miles, read the stories of actual pioneers, and visited sacred sites like the Sweetwater River crossing and Martin's Cove.

Each of us was given the name and story of a real pioneer from one of the handcart companies, for whom we would be trekking. I trekked for Elizabeth Cunningham, who was 12 years old when she crossed the plains. (Interestingly, I found out later that my pioneer and I share the same birthdate. And Marty’s pioneer, William Wignall, actually had an infant daughter named Grace.)

We took Grace with us. Long story short, we worried about taking a five-month-old infant into the desert in July, but after much prayer and preparation, we knew it was the right thing to do, and that she would be alright. And she did marvelously – she was happy and healthy, and barely fussed the entire trip. What a story we will get to tell her when she is older!

The Trek was an incredibly spiritual experience for us, and one we will never forget. All of my life I’ve been taught about the pioneers – their struggles, their faith and determination, and the miracles they witnessed.

But to walk where they walked, to reenact some of their greatest trials, to stand in the place where 56 people lost their lives waiting for rescue in a severe winter storm... well, it is impossible to describe the awe and respect we felt for them.

We are so grateful for their legacy of faith and courage. May we live up to it.

Our trek "family" pulling the handcart to our campsite.

Crossing the Sweetwater. We had it easy. When the pioneers crossed it, it was waist deep, 100 feet wide, and bitter cold with chunks of ice floating in it.

{Photographs by Brett High}


nikki said...

awesome experience and fantastic photos - thanks for sharing both with us!

Kristy said...

I was searching for information on my grandmother and came across your post. Elizabeth, who you trekked for, was my great (however many generations back) aunt. I love her story. Thanks for doing that!