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Becca's Journal

25th July, 2000. 3:51 pm. I Doubt Anyone Will Read it All... but here it is... The Re-cap

Okay... at long last... to commemorate Pioneer Day, July 24th, my favorite holiday, I have for you all... a trek re-cap. This may be a while, so grab a snack.

Okay... at long last... to commemorate Pioneer Day, July 24th, my favorite holiday, I have for you all... a trek re-cap. This may be a while, so grab a snack.

We left the house early and drove a long drive over the river and through the woods (up some mountains, too) to the meeting place. The first day we got there we all assembled in a field, all dressed in the appropriate pioneer garb. I found Kenny, Nate, Scott, and Clint, (they're freshman boys from seminary, but of course everyone knows Kenny :o) we ate our sack lunches, roasting in the sun next to a creek, and waited to be introduced to our families.

The families were made up of ten kids usually, plus a Ma and Pa. We had one handcart for all of us to put our things in... it was basically a wooden box with wheels and a yoke for pulling. There was a rope attached to it as well, also to help with pulling. I've got pictures, I'll show all of you when I see you next.

My family, besides me, was made up of four boys and five girls. There was Rose, Sarah, Shiloh, Michelle, Tiffany, Dan, Rob, Mike, and Jameson. None of us were all that outgoing, so that first day we didn't converse much.

We were assigned to be in the first company, (a company was made of about ten families plus a wagon master and his wife), but last in the company to leave. So we began.

We spent the first couple of hours making it up a huge hill. I pulled the rope, it put a huge strain on my back and shoulders. Dust flew up from the handcarts in front and got into our faces. I specifically remember running my tongue along the inside of my teeth and feeling gritty bits of earth. The heat was quite immense, causing us to get out of breath fairly early on, and most of the hill's path was exposed in the sun. We'd soaked our kerchiefs in the creek before we left and had them around our necks to keep us cool. The water they gave us tasted like chlorine from the cleaner they used in the containers. It burned when we poured it down our throats. I was so thirsty, I drank it anyway. After a while I only had tiny sips because it hurt so much. The rocks shot up into our feet and caused us to stumble, nearly losing the cart behind us, but it wasn't so bad that we couldn't make it. We got used to it after a while.

Within that time we went to an altitude of 1,200 feet up a mountain. We climbed 4/5 of a mile, that's all. It was on a slope that was unbelievably steep. We lost two girls, Shiloh because she's a little heavier and was having problems in that aspect, and Michelle had an asthma attack that kept them at the base of the hill with the doctor for that first hill.

At the top we rested and waited for the other companies to get up the hill. My real mom and dad were in the last company. Their handcart had broken down three times. One girl in their family was hypoglycemic, one boy collapsed and couldn't walk, and one girl twisted her ankle. They were left with six people pushing a heavily loaded handcart. Their cart had other people's gear in it because their handcarts had broken beyond the point of fixing and they needed somewhere to put their things. It was very rough for them the first day. I was lucky our cart didn't break down and we only lost two people.

After the break at the top we had to keep going. The trail wasn't as steep, the roads were wider, but the rocks were worse. We had to stop multiple times because handcarts kept breaking. Once we rested for nearly half-an-hour waiting for them to fix a cart. I stayed with Meghan Lee and Sara Hughes. We talked about food. This was probably the most common topic of conversation on trek. I really, really wanted something raspberry or a pizza. And, like I said before, Meghan really, really wanted chicken noodle soup. Sara wanted a Shirley Temple.

We sat on a rock ledge and the boys tossed rocks down it. It was quite a view, looking down into the valley we'd climbed. The sun was setting behind the hills. It was quite an awesome sight.

We continued walking, however, with a pain in our side and sweat on our neck. We were hungry. We hadn't eaten since about twelve that day and it got to about 6:30 when people started noticing their stomachs again.

I got to take a shot at pulling in the yoke. There is hardly a way to describe it. It hurts. It pulls on everything. Shoulders, wrists, arms, hips, calves, thighs, neck, back, ankles. The weight of a 700-pound handcart mostly dispersed between the two people in the yoke. The screws and bolts in the side of the handle that kept it together would rub against either the side of your ribs or the side of your hip, depending on how high you let the yoke rest.

We walked longer than I can explain. When you looked ahead down the road you couldn't see an end anywhere. It began to get dark. Darker than dark. You couldn't see the person standing in front of you very well at all. The handcart ahead was even more of a chore to try to keep your eye on. The path was invisible.

I was at the back of the handcart. I rested my hands on the back and pushed with my whole, exhausted body, every ounce of strength I could gather, and we moved a foot... and then another foot... and then another. My feet hurt terrible, my muscles were tight, my throat burned, my stomach stabbed, my mouth was dirty, and the wind was so cold. I exerted all of my energy into moving that cart. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, trying to keep on; to keep on moving ahead. I don't know how ten kids, as exhausted as we were, could have possibly pushed that cart for the four or more miles we walked during the night.

We're talking an angel-propelled handcart here, that's all I gotta say.

We were so close to the end. They told us... around the next corner then you'll see the campfire. So we went around the next corner and we saw the campfire. The problem was, there were trees in between us and camp. We kept walking, but we could feel the ground turning into earth that was no path of any kind.

What were we going to do? We had come so far only to be set back once again. We stopped. I let the pulling rope slip from my fingers. I sat on the cold ground and nearly cried. What else could we do? We were so tired and so hungry. We felt so lost. I could feel pain surging in pulses through my feet and my stomach felt as though it had been ripped apart from hunger. I was beyond dizzy by that point. I longed to stay where I was and melt into the ground... just collapse and fall asleep. I felt my muscles begin to un-tighten. It was as if my bones were easing into a position they'd never move from. There, on the earthy ground, was the last place I wanted to be, but yet, the last place I wanted to leave. It was so comfortable and appealing. I thought of the fact that we'd have to soon get up and walk again. I nearly cried.

Then they asked the impossible. To get up, and keep moving. The path wound between two trees. We couldn't see that because it was so dark. We couldn't even tell how close we were.

It makes you think I would have been content to just stop then and there right in that spot right on that rocky, cold ground, without food, without any blankets or warmth. Little did I know how close I was to reaching the final destination.

There are so many things that could go off of that, I won't even begin.

We finally pulled the handcart to camp with a loud "Hurrah!" Everything got quickly unpacked with newfound energy we'd gathered from the knowledge that we had made it. I searched for my tin and my spoon in my bag and walked over to the campfire to get my meal.

They had for us warm chicken broth and cold, stale rolls. I swallowed it down my sore throat, enjoying every ounce of warmth provided me. The bread was rough and stiff but it gave substance to taste instead of only liquids. The broth smoothed my chapped lips and helped ease my stomach. It was the best meal I have ever tasted.

We put down the tarp and rolled out our sleeping bags. I changed into my nightgown to keep me warm, rolled up my long coat and my dress as a pillow for my head, and fell asleep on the lumpy ground. I remember feeling the bruises in my hips, the tightness of my shoulder and leg muscles, and the surging pain in my feet and not caring at all. I slept more deeply than I have ever slept.

That morning I woke up feeling like I'd slept with a boulder placed on top of me. I hurt everywhere. You don't think I mean everywhere, but, yes, I mean everywhere. Especially my legs, back, and feet, but it really WAS everywhere. Got up to put my dress back on, only to find the zipper have come out of track. I went to my real mother and had her try to fix it, but that didn't work. I wasted a bit of my time trying to fix it, but to no avail. It was broken.

I decided to go the day in my nightgown. It's flannel, heavy, but with little sheep on it. I really didn't want to wear it. I was already so hot from the morning sun exposed to us because of lack of trees. In the light, you could see our camp it was big, for the most part treeless, on a slight slope, and you could see some of the valley from where we camped next to our cart.

For breakfast we had to walk down and a ways a bit from the camp to cook so the fires wouldn't be so close to camp. We brought our pot to a boil and started up for corn meal.

We didn't wait long enough for the corn meal so it ended up being more mealy than mushy. With enough brown sugar on it, it tasted decent. It was enough to warm our stomachs and sustain us for the morning. I had two tin cups full.

When we were done with the breakfast (which was also to last us until lunch) I packed up my things and wrote in my journal some. My Pa told me I needed to change into my dress, and not my nightgown, and I told him my plight. He had Ma help me. She tried getting the zipper back on track, but couldn't. So we ended up pinning my dress all the way up the back. It came unpinned easily, and wasn't as comfortable, but it let the breeze reach me and that was much nicer.

Then our company had a meeting. We were informed that we were the last company to leave camp that day. We were also told that my Ma and Pa had volunteered our handcart to another family. We were handcart-less. We had to give some of our bags to be dispersed throughout other companies with more carts, some who could take on an extra bag or two. We also had to carry some of our belongings. I kept my sleeping roll, my journal, my gloves, two bandannas, and my camera, of course. We were to walk with another family and switch off carrying our things and pushing/pulling the handcart.

We were at camp for a long, long time. It was long, long after the other companies left before we were able to get on the trail. We had to wait while they brought up to us another cart wheel to replace one off of a cart so it could be used again. This took a couple of hours.

While we waited, Meghan Lee and I sat in the shade of a lone tree and talked. It was good to have a leisurely morning, and it took our minds off of our aching body frames, but all we really wanted was to get moving and to get to "Salt Lake City". (That's what they called the valley we were heading towards) All anyone really talked about was the food we all wanted so badly. It helped to imagine them, and to keep us moving.

We finally left. Carrying our things in hand, we left Fort Bridger. The downward climb was rough. We pulled back on the handcart until our arms were ready to detach from our bodies and hang on to the carts as they careened down the hill, going out of control. I can't describe with words the feeling of having every muscle in your shoulders and arms being pulled tightly on by a 700-lb handcart for almost an hour straight.

The view was lovely, though. To our right for more than half of the way down we looked down into a deep, deep ravine. We'd climbed that high and that steep, and it gave us encouragement to see how far we'd come. However, if any handcart would have lost control, it would have never been seen again, and everyone's belongings would have been very lost.

We reached a creek. By this time we were sweaty and aching of fatigue. We soaked our kerchiefs to tie around our necks to keep us cool, even though it was becoming quite overcast. We filled our stomachs with the sweet water (now uncontaminated by chlorine) and kept on moving deeper into the valley. We were heading dead into a downpour.

We neared the uphill slope again and had one last rest. They had before told us we would soon be to the "Salt Lake Valley." We still had a long climb. It wasn't as fatiguing as the first day and night, but we still had a ways to go, and that disheartened us a bit.

Then they pulled off the boys. We were pushing the cart and they pulled, one by one, each boy off the cart. It was to show us what it was like for what the pioneer women, who were alone. It was to show the boys the real struggle we had. I pushed from behind. It was as if they had died, It was as if we were walking through a silent graveyard of our own family. Without our four strong and able-bodied boys to help us through, it became quite a task to move that cart. It grew four times heavier and the hill four times steeper. At least for me, the single person pushing from behind, it hurt so bad.

When finally the boys were let to come back on the cart, the slope was over. We switched again with the other family, and were let to carry our belongings. It was quiet and solemn. We trudged along, listening to the clouds clash overhead, waiting for the rain to start.

And then it did. Rain started pouring down; the heavens opened up over our company and showered us with heavy drops. I pulled my bonnet further over my face so that my glasses would be shielded and that I would be able to see decently. I stuffed my journal into my sleeping roll to save it from the downpour as well. They told us to stop, leave the carts, and climb up off the trail onto the ridge under the trees while the Ma's and Pa's met with our wagon master.

We trekked on, though. The road was almost over. We had another hill to climb and a bit of forest to cut through before we reached the valley. The rain ceased and the sun began to peek out. Things didn't look so bleak anymore. We were almost there!

We came to the end of the blazed trail. They told us to cut through an elk path, a shortcut because we were so far behind. We jolted over a small creek and began up the forested hill.

Trees blocked on either side of the wagon and the road was lined with dead tree logs and stumps. Pine branches hung in our faces and caught our bonnets and hats in their needles.

Then we hit the big hill. We decided to have it in one long run. We each took a breath, and ran as fast as we could, lugging the rickety handcart over logs, hills, rocks, and then me.

I will recount my encounter with the handcart. A pine branch blocked my path and, I stumbled. The cart rolled over both of my legs. The bruises still remain. It was a miracle I didn't have both of them broken and that I could walk all the way to the end.

My close encounter with disability gave me some newfound determination to survive until the end. And, once we got over those last few "bumps" we made it.

We were there. At long last, we had made it. After coming over that last stretch, we could see the camps set up. We could see parked handcarts and people unpacking. We saw some dancing in the field and a congregation of folk eating caramel apples. We let out a tired series of whoops and yells. We had finally made it.

Being the last company, we had to pull our carts to the back of the valley, up next to the furthest trees. We set our cart down and went straight over to eat. I have never tasted anything so divine, as a caramel apple after a daylong climb.

I found my mother and father. They had been the very first cart to arrive that day and had been there a while. My dad checked out my legs to see if they were broken and found, to his astonishment, them to be fine except for some bruised tissues. I quickly devoured my apple and found others. I found Kenny, Rachel, her friends, I found Meghan, I found girls from my ward, I found my trek "sisters". They had all previously heard about my being run over. I had become famous. I was known as "the girl who got run over by a handcart." People came up to me and asked me all about it. They asked if it hurt. They asked if they could see the bruises. I, proudly, hitched up my skirt and bloomers to knee level and showed them off. I had survived. They called me a miracle.

The rest of the day was very laid-back. We rested and set up camp. We put up a tarp shelter to protect us from possible rainfall. We made dinner of beef and vegetable stew. All us sisters, Tiffany, Rose, Shiloh, and Sara, sat around the upturned cart (it served as our table) and cut meat and vegetables, Sara and I made butter out of cream. The stew was so delicious. With salt and pepper, all in a tin serving plate, it was a delicious flavor. We ate hot fry-bread with it, with warm honey-butter that Sara and I proudly made.

Later on that evening we had a friendly get-together, where all us folk sang and laughed. I was mostly talking with Meghan and Ashley (I think her name was Ashley). Then I told my parents (my real ones) goodnight and stumbled through the dark until I found camp again.

I lucked the ants off of my sleeping bag, getting the ones I could see in the dim light, and slid deep down into my bag, using my coat as a pillow. Sara sang us a lullaby and we all fell asleep.

The next day was our Sabbath. (At least we made like it was) We wore our best: I in my blouse and purple bonnet and skirt. We made breakfast of cracked wheat with honey and brown sugar. It was warm and good.

Then we had our church meetin'. There was speaking and singing. Then the men and women split for their separate meetings, the men for Priesthood and the women for Relief Society. There was more singing and speaking and all manner of things of spiritual nature. There was an overabundance of crickets, grasshoppers, and mosquitoes. Meghan caught a grasshopper and lovingly named it Bob. It soon got away.

The meetin' was concluded. We went back to our families. Then, to everyone's utmost delight, the Pony Express delivered everyone letters. I got one from my mother, one from my father, and one from my bishop. Then they gave us lunches of beef jerky, fresh oranges, and a dry roll. The highlight of food for my entire trip was the orange.

They sent us off into the woods for some time to ourselves. We were each left alone for two hours. I wrote in my journal and enjoyed nature. It was so peaceful and rejuvenating. I rested my aching body and refreshed my mind.

After that we had our family meetings, had dinner, then went to testimony meeting. It went good and long. I got to bear testimony, and at the close we sang my favorite hymn, "Come, Come Ye Saints." It was uplifting and gave us new hope for tomorrow's remaining trek.

Then we retired. We took the tarp and put it underneath us because the clouds had gone away. The wind was blowing something fierce. I put on my dress over my blouse and skirt, my nightgown over my dress, and my coat over my nightgown. Then I wrapped myself up in my Navajo blanket. I left my socks and my bonnet on to keep in the heat.

The night was freezing. I remember having only my eyes exposed, to look up at the stars as I tried to sleep, and being miserably tossing and turning because it was so frigid. I have never been so cold. Ants were crawling in and out of my bag, but I was too cold to flick them away. I tried to sleep, but no sleep would come.

I was awake when the sun began peeking over the mountains in the valley. It was still chilly, but bearable. It was time to get up. It was our last day.

We made a delicious breakfast. It was of oatmeal and raisins, topped with either honey or brown sugar. It was to give us energy for the trail that still awaited us. Our family had one last meeting.

It was also my Ma's birthday. We gave her a birthday-decorated kerchief and signed her other kerchief. (And the cooks gave her a full container of red vines)

We packed up all of our things. The staff boys, Nelson and Joshua, came by and fixed our wagon. Dan and Jameson helped, along with Pa. They replaced the wheel on the side. This handcart was much smaller. We had to pack more compactly, but somehow we managed to get it all in. Then we got in line to move the handcarts out at last. We were going home!

We assembled one last time as a company, then broke off into our different wards for pictures and an encouraging word or two. We soon returned to our carts and left.

We were the second company today. We had a handcart and most of the trail was out of the blazing sun. The road was rocky, and a lot of it very, very steep downhill, but our spirits were so high, we didn't notice the strain as much. The ache in our muscles seemed minuscule and the throbbing in our feet small. My bruises still hurt with every step, but it didn't matter anymore at all.

We were a jovial and rejoicing bunch. The task was almost done. We sang and laughed. Sarah would sing for us when we started to become silent. We stopped only after a little ways (after a mile and a half) and were told we were halfway there. Our company was overflowing with laughter and excitement. Our family trekked along at a merry pace.

As we tugged down one last hill, they told us "around the bend and it's over!" We let out whoops of excitement and relief. The task was still at hand, but the weight of the carts seemed less than they'd ever been. They seemed almost to float weightless in our push and pull.

We sighted the end at last. We were through. We pulled the handcart to a stop and let out a huge, unified sigh of relief. It was finished. The work we'd been asked to do was done at last. We were worn, we were sore, we were starved, we were exhausted, and we were happy. We gave each other rewarding slaps on the back and strong hugs, despite our weakened strength. We had made it. We had endured to the end, and made it.

Tears of joy, relief, and parting were shed as we said our goodbyes to the families we'd had for the past four days. The people we'd shared the hardest trial most of us had ever been put through, we left. My parents, Holly, Rachel and I assembled, and left the carts and friendly faces, to return home once again.

There were times I thought I would faint from the hot sun, there were times I thought I would die of hunger... there were times the pain that pulsed through my body at every second got so strong it nearly overwhelmed me... there were times exhaustion hit me so hard... I wanted to sit down and cry... but that was life. That was just life. And I miss it.

Pioneers went and lived for months at a time under these same conditions. The pain, the sweat, the heat, the bugs, the food, the rain, the cold, the fatigue, the death. It was all so they cold raise their families somewhere where no one would harm them or their children. Somewhere where they could live and not be afraid of mobs attacking their homes, of angry Americans who disliked them with such a passion, that they would murder them and their children in their sleep. That's why they left. They left so they could survive. Some of them didn't. Some of them did die by the wayside, but the pioneers (in essence) did survive. And that's why I'm here. If they hadn't gone through everything... if they'd let themselves be exterminated... I would never have existed.

And that... is pretty darn cool.

Happy 24th of July.

Current mood: accomplished.

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