The Push and Pull on Our Journey

When we packed our luggage and then our vehicle for a road trip a couple of weeks ago, I minimized what I took. I even pared down to two pairs of shoes.

As I left the house, my eyes caught sight of my running shoes by the garage door. You should bring those, I thought. I argued in my head that I didn’t need them. I went back inside for something else and the thought came again. I reached down, picked up the shoes and handed them to Paul.

“Could you find a place for these somewhere back there?” I asked.

After visiting the Black Hills, we traveled through Wyoming and picked up the Mormon Pioneer Trail in Casper. We passed Independence Rock and Devil’s Gate, the half way-point for many western settlers.

There we stopped for a visit at the Martin’s Cove Visitor’s Center.  This is the sight where the Martin Handcart Company, a group of Latter-day Saint pioneers outfitted in handcarts were hit by an early snow storm, causing much loss of life and suffering. They took refuge in the cove until a rescue party reached them from Salt Lake City.

All visitors are invited to walk to the cove about two miles from the center and push a handcart with them if they like. They have golf carts for motorized access, but these are for elderly or disabled visitors. We needed to stretch our legs after being in the car and thought we could use a walk. Without much thought of the trail ahead of us, we grabbed the handcart they gave us and enjoyed the novelty of pushing and pulling it toward the cove. We took pictures of the antelope and took turns taking pictures of us playing pioneer.

We left our handcart at an intersection in the trail and walked on a more narrow trail up to the cove in the mountainous rocks. We met a friendly couple from the visitor’s center and asked them about the stories of the place. They told us about a young man named Isaac Mardell. He had been in the Martin Company and had been asked to carry an extra 100 lbs of flour because he was younger and strong.

Even he suffered as the early winter came upon this company. Many had died and he, now seeking refuge at the cove, showed the tell-tale signs of near death. He had sat down and begun to feel warm and sleepy. Some noticed this and they gave him an assignment to come up the hill and chop down a few trees. That work had been designed for him to keep him moving and it saved his life. We saw the stump of the tree he had cut.

On the way back, we took the path with our handcart that passed over several more miles of hilly, muddy terrain. We took off our shoes and crossed the Sweetwater River, pulling our handcart behind us. The rocks jabbed into our feet and made us stumble up the uneven river bank, just when we had to pull the hardest to get the handcart out of the water. The water was much higher than our knees, where we had expected it, and it was cold for that late July day.

When we plunged into the river, I thought how people could give us advice about how to cross, but eventually we had to plunge in ourselves and figure out how to get through to the other side with each other’s help.

After the river crossing, the kids wanted to walk a bit without their shoes to dry off their legs and feet. Each of us took a turn being pulled in the handcart, and the added weight, their bare feet, and wet pants caused a lot more complaining.

Paul told them they could each make their biggest complaint to get it out. Afterward, I said that each of us needed to find an answer to this question, “How have I seen the hand of the Lord reach out to touch us?”

When it came to my turn, I looked down at my feet. We were almost to the end of our five mile trek. I saw those shoes that I’d been impressed to throw in the car at the last minute. How glad I was to have them. Not only to save my feet but to allow us this experience to learn from pioneer perseverance how to keep going on our own spiritual journeys.

1 Comment

  1. Lisa
    Aug 18, 2009

    What a good learning experience for your family! That’s a pioneer journey I think I could survive. Thanks for sharing.

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